There are chronic workforce and staff mobility challenges in the NHS and these have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The NHS Collaborative Bank Alpha was an initiative completed in 2022 in a multi-supplier collaboration with Deloitte, Patchwork, MuleSoft, and Evernym, with the aim of proving how collaborative banks could remove some barriers to flexible resourcing to help alleviate this pervasive problem.
This initiative involved combining staff passports, systems access, eRostering, and staff bank technologies through an exchange hub interoperability layer. Interoperability is a key part of the NHS’ future vision of care in England. The flexible deployment of permanent NHS staff through a staff bank as opposed to using temporary staffing agencies has the potential to significantly reduce costs for the NHS.
Interoperability and Exchange Hubs
Through this Alpha, we demonstrated that interoperable collaborative banks could be used to:
- Bolster patient safety
- Provide a better experience for the NHS workforce
- Increase the efficiency of staff utilization
The principle of a collaborative bank is that local healthcare organizations participating in an Integrated Care System (ICS) can pool their staff. By allowing a wider selection of appropriately qualified individuals to view and apply to shifts within a geographic area, this increases the chances that a given staff vacancy can be filled.
There are a number of technologies that need to be seamlessly integrated to make this solution work effectively:
- Staff bank systems: Used to manage details of temporary staff
- eRostering systems: Used by hospitals to manage employee schedules
- Digital staff passports: Tech that houses clinicians’ training and onboarding credentials, enabling Trusts to bring clinicians into new environments quickly and safely
Key to the Staff Bank initiative was the concept of an exchange hub interoperability layer. This layer needed to be able to interface with each of the component technologies and platforms and translate data from and to a variety of standardized formats. We wanted to define a solution that maximized reusability and allowed the fastest and widest participation in the collaborative bank because we recognized that this would deliver the biggest value to the NHS.
There are clearly published API and data standards that participant organizations needed to obey but we also needed to be realistic about the timescales over which standards compliance could be reached.
Exchange Hub on MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform
MuleSoft’s Anypoint platform was able to support the Exchange Hub requirements. Using an API-led design approach we were quickly able to articulate which APIs needed to be built and how they could serve both the current and longer-term requirements.
System APIs were developed to handle the complexities of integrating with the staff bank technologies. Anypoint MQ was used within the exchange hub to improve the robustness of the overall solution by allowing local and collaborative banks to operate at different speeds. We used the Design Centre to develop our API specifications. This enabled us to resolve ambiguities and mitigate risk early.
By using CloudHub, we were quickly able to design, build and deploy a working solution that could be used to test our understanding of Patchwork’s technology. Once the build was complete we were then able to show the API specifications in Anypoint Exchange to help others understand what was built, how it works and gain feedback for further iterations of the solution. This gave us great engagement and collaborative potential.
Rapid onboarding of collab and local banks
One of the challenges was not only to connect the local and collaborative banks for this first use case but also to create reusable assets in the exchange hub to rapidly onboard Trusts that use different local and collaborative banks. By focusing on reuse, we have proven that the NHS can expose multiple local banks to a single collaborative bank giving more choices for NHS staff to determine where they work with real-time information.
With the decoupled approach, we allow trusts to choose their local bank supplier without impacting the collaborative bank supplier, enabling Trusts to use solutions that best meet their needs. This approach lowers the cost for Trusts as it allows them to take advantage of reusable assets exposed in a common marketplace.