North Yorkshire County Council

North Yorkshire County Council

Improved Partnership and Collaborative Working

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

Partnership and collaborative working between the NHS and Councils is seen as an enabler to transformed health and care services not just in North Yorkshire but across the Country. A joint venture between the NHS and the Council will create a new delivery model for community services for people in the Harrogate area. NHS Acute and Community Services, Mental Health, GP and social care now work as a single co-ordinated service. Further models of this nature are being considered for other parts of North Yorkshire.

Regular multi-agency huddles will take place where staff from across those disciplines will come together to review current and future casework and agree allocation of activities. Previously, this would have involved staff travelling to fixed locations for meetings. Travelling to/from meetings and appointments with colleagues is an inefficient use of time and results in additional costs. By using the collaboration tool – Skype for Business – these meetings will now take place completely digitally from  office and home locations. Federating this collaboration tool across the range of partners was seen as an essential enabler.

What are the key achievements?

The initial driver came from a local Mental Health Trust. On further investigation it became clear there was an appetite from other NHS organisations for similar federations. With assistance of NHS Digital, it was possible to execute one single federation with the Skype for Business Service provided by NHS Digital to multiple NHS Trusts and organisations regionally and nationally. Organisations within, and working on the periphery of, North Yorkshire could now also take advantage of the federation with the Council and vice-versa.

The federated service now supports collaborative working between council staff and NHS partners across the whole of North Yorkshire and beyond to regional partners within the STP/ICS areas. This has extended the benefits of collaborative working as well as increasing the opportunities for council staff to work in an agile way. By using Skype for Business in a federated setting, travel times are significantly reduced, meetings can be scheduled and conducted entirely digitally, the need to occupy office space and/or meeting rooms is reduced and staff can strike a better work/life balance by being able to participate while working from home.

What are the key learning points?

There were some technical considerations that needed to be dealt with before federating but these were relatively simple to work through. Both parties add configurations to their Skype for Business edge servers, then staff from both organisations can immediately share presence and availably information. As with any Skype for Business installation they can also use Instant Messaging, Video Conferencing and make Skype for Business Calls. Part of the federation process is to agree a Federation Partnership Agreement (FPA), a document provided by NHS Digital. This needs to be reviewed by relevant Legal or Contract teams within the council.

Although there is no direct cost to achieving federation, this is a binding contract and therefore needs to be properly reviewed and signed by both the council and NHS Digital. NYCC already operates a culture where agile working is encouraged and supported. This includes the ability of staff to work out of different organisations premises as well as from their home. Skype for Business (and associated federations) supports this. On its own Skype for Business is just another tool for staff to use, but it also needs to be used within a supportive organisation.

Additional Comments

The Council has embedded Skype for Business within its operational systems infrastructure. This provides a range of tools to support increased collaboration and communication between staff. It is used across all council services. Skype for Business supports the council’s vision of being a modern council, with agile working across multiple locations seen as a core principle for a modern workforce, alongside estates rationalisation and the provision of fit for purpose technology. Federating Skype for Business could be considered a simple thing to have done, it should not be under-estimated the benefits this will bring to the organisations taking part. It has already been mentioned the time savings and efficiency gains which are significant. Adding this functionality across all the NHS organisations NYCC deal with over time, will bring further savings and efficiencies to all partners involved.