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Berkshire NHS Trust’s new, MS365-integrated intranet ‘brings disparate staff together, makes clinical processes and systems more efficient'

COVID-19 has created significant disruption to regular working patterns throughout the NHS and sparked a remote-working revolution. 

Izzy Coleman-Wood and Sabrina Meusel, from Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, told the VerseOne Customer Day more about the challenges – and opportunities – they faced when launching a new intranet to help bring disparate staff together.

Izzy Coleman-Wood is clear about the impact COVID-19 has had on her workplace.

“We’re a combined mental health and community trust, so we have staff on wards, out in communities, in offices and now, of course, a lot of people working from home.

“Having these hard-to-reach and mobile staff has always been a challenge for us in communications.”

The Berkshire remote-working revolution, however, was not prompted by the pandemic alone; the Trust also launched its new access-anywhere intranet as lockdown paralysed the nation.

At our recent Customer Day, Izzy and comms colleague Sabrina shared the roadmap they followed to open up their intelligent workforce hub – as the country closed down.

“We had an old SharePoint intranet site,” said Izzy, “which had grown and grown and suffered from content creep. Our Learning and Development section alone, for example, had several hundred pages.

“Finding the right information was time-consuming because you had to wade through these pages, and it also meant the search function didn’t really work.

“But for most staff it was all we had ever known, so it was hard to imagine a different world from the one we had.”

With some 4,500 staff attempting to deliver joined-up services from disparate locations throughout the county, however, the Trust urgently needed a digital hub to keep clinicians and allied health professionals connected.

Following a multi-channel consultation process, Issy, Sabrina and colleagues chose VerseOne (VO) to build, personalise and publish a new, user-first healthcare intranet which would work for them now – and in the future. 

And it’s no exaggeration to say that since its publication and assimilation with Microsoft 365, the cutting-edge portal, powered by VO’s CMS and supported by our Total Engagement Programme, has transformed the way staff provide care.

So much so that the organisation was recently named among the first seven NHS community and mental health trusts to become global digital exemplars.

Phase one of the project saw the team focus on delivering the platform needed to unlock the Trust’s digital potential and allow staff to access the intranet anywhere, at any time on any device.

It included:

  • Leveraging VerseOne’s Gold Partner status with Microsoft to set up online authentication using OpenID Connect Single Sign-On using Active Directory Federated Services, both within the Trust network and for those based in the community, boosting internal communication and employee experience
  • Integrating the MS 365 People Directory via a live intranet feed which updates automatically as job titles and staff details change
  • Making documents and drives available through the intranet thanks to VerseOne’s unique Create Once and Publish Anywhere (COPE) software, with full audit trails allowing frontline staff and AHPs to set, monitor, review and revive policies and procedures via an intuitive management system
  • Allowing staff to upload videos to the digital business platform via MS Stream, supporting the Trust’s internal communication strategy

Izzy and Sabrina are delighted with the new site, which is already helping to make clinical processes and systems more efficient and the care and treatment of patients safer.

Unlike its unwieldy predecessor, the new portal is simple and easy to navigate thanks to standard page layouts, the use of keywords and descriptions have radically improved the search facility, and automated processes – including integrated Microsoft forms – are helping staff deliver more efficient care while reducing duplication and use of paper, too.

Feedback has also been enthusiastic and positive, demonstrating that a perfect blend of technology, mobile-first design, and in-depth knowledge – coupled with great content – can provide staff with the digital tools they need to do their jobs and deliver great results.

“We are very happy with it,” said Izzy. “There’s a lot of scope for further integration with 365 and the other platforms we use, too.

“We’ve also been using Google Analytics, and the document facility is working well for us so far.”

In the past, roadblocks to technology hindered the delivery of effective care but, with the roll-out of Microsoft 365 to 1.2 million NHS staff during the pandemic and the availability of digital tools like Berkshire’s new intelligent hub, the way staff work within the sector is rapidly changing.

“We expected to see an increase in collaboration, but I don’t think we quite appreciated the impact 365 would have on the way our staff worked once it was rolled out throughout the Trust,” said Sabrina.

“We started to see a huge uptake in staff creating their own integrated Teams channels and the generation of a lot more content.

“One of the things we are now trying to do with the [intranet] integration is to bring everything into one place to create a central location where staff can see and access everything.”

VerseOne is proud to have worked alongside NHS staff in Berkshire to deliver a digital workplace which is working hand-in-hand with MS 365 to improve patient experience.

What’s more, as VerseOne customers, the Trust has also taken advantage of an exclusive offer: by becoming members of our pioneering NHS User Group, staff now also have the chance to help shape our product strategy.

Speaking to delegates during the Customer Day, VerseOne Chief Operating Officer, Sue Allder, outlined more of the exclusive benefits available to members.

“At VerseOne we’ve always tried to ensure that all our products, services and solutions are both customer and market-led.

“After speaking to clients, we are delighted to announce the formation of an NHS User Group.

“The group is primarily a great opportunity for customers to network, learn from each other, and share ideas on digital transformation. Hopefully, we’ll see you all there.”

Sue explained that members, who will meet three-to-four times each year, will also receive new software releases ahead of general availability, be given the opportunity to suggest enhancements, and gain exclusive access to our online portal MyVerseOne.

Customer Solutions Director, Chris Mounsey, told the Customer Day that the group’s launch was a natural step forward, following the development of close partnerships with many NHS clients delivering integrated health and social care.

“The fact that we do all these great things and develop products for and with you is thanks to the partnerships we share.

“The level of engagement, openness and honesty that we share is absolutely incredible and we value that enormously. We love working with you, and we love the fact that we can make a difference within your organisations and society in general.

“The launch of the NHS User Group is pretty exciting stuff. It will be great to get your direct input and see what you come up with within the digital workplace.

“We are really excited to see where we are going to be in a year’s time.”

To join the NHS User Group, VerseOne customers should register on MyVerseOne or email: nhsusergroup@verseone.com