ICT chief warns Scottish NHS struggling with tech demands

Written by Alan Robertson on 29 January 2016 in News
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Scotland’s public sector is “scrambling” to stay on top of growing demands for improved digital infrastructure, a head of IT within the NHS has warned.

Andy Robertson, NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) director of information technology, raised concerns over the capacity to simultaneously deliver large-scale programmes such as fibre broadband and a single digital network for the public sector at pace.

The Scottish Wide Area Network programme (SWAN) is intended to deliver a single public services network for use by the NHS, councils and other public sector organisations north of the border, allowing information to be shared more easily and securely.


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It comes at the same time as Scotland also presses ahead with plans to roll out high-speed fibre broadband to 750,000 premises by the end of March 2018.

Robertson, who was speaking at yesterday’s Holyrood conference on SWAN, said: “There is the Broadband [Delivery] UK initiative to deliver fibre to the cabinet up and down the country for retail consumption. And that’s somewhat competing for capacity with the SWAN programme, trying to do the same thing for the public sector.

“We have escalated that on a number of different occasions and have made it clear that that is understood by the civil service, by the politicians, by the different companies that form the industry in Scotland. But I think that is something we’re certainly struggling with, [which] is capacity rather than the ability to deliver.

“I don’t think anybody is questioning the ability to pull this off but the ability to deliver it in a hurry with the amount of demand there is across the piece has been the real issue. You’ll see that, there is the whole of the Scottish public sector scrambling and I don’t see the demand diminishing either."

NSS, a national NHS board which provides specialist services to the health service and the wider public sector, awarded the SWAN contract to Capita almost two years ago.

However, rollout is currently running 11 months behind schedule with a handful of NHS sites yet to be transferred over from a legacy network.  

“As soon as the health service is done deploying [SWAN], we go back to the other end of the bridge and start upgrading our whole network… we will start to look at what’s required," added Robertson.

"The other elements of the Scottish digital strategy are pushing for platform as a service, software as a service, cloud deployment, and the health service is no different.

“We’re starting to put things that are hosted locally even more so come into national and more centralised hosting. So the capacity demand in the system for Scotland going forward is going to just increase if anything. We need to get this sorted and it has been escalated.

“I don’t think there are any easy answers, if there were we would have found them by now. But it’s not for the want of pointing this out and we hopefully will see that abating as we go.”

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