NHS Scotland has accelerated the roll-out of powerful digital tools to help healthcare workers communicate and collaborate in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Microsoft Teams, which forms part of the Office365 suite, is now live across all of Scotland’s health boards, from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway. It is also in place across frontline health services including NHS24, Health Protection Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service.
This secure online technology is helping NHS teams as they rise to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and counter the increased risks associated with the virus as they continue to work tirelessly to support Scotland’s health and wellbeing.
The rollout of Teams has been fast-tracked and is enabling colleagues to effectively manage the contingency measures in place across NHS Scotland. It works securely across devices and is helping a huge range of colleagues work effectively despite having to restrict travel, meet online, isolate wards, self-quarantine, work remotely and, for some support functions that includes at home.
NHS colleagues can securely and remotely work together using Teams. They can upload, share and work on the same online files at the same time. As well as being able to hold virtual meetings, health care workers can contact colleagues by secure instant messaging, direct audio or video calls.
The Executive Sponsor for the Office 365 Cloud and Computing Programme managing the national rollout is Colin Sinclair, Chief Executive of NHS National Services Scotland. He said: “This unprecedented event, combined with a lockdown of the UK, has led to an unequivocal need to ‘open up’ digital communications to help the NHS save lives.
“In response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS Scotland has accelerated the rollout of Microsoft Teams, so that it is available to all of our staff – that’s over 160,000 colleagues.
“A national team was already working closely with local health board teams on the planned rollout of Microsoft Office 365 over the coming months, but in agreement with the Scottish Government, we accelerated that rollout to a couple of weeks. This technology is helping us enormously in allowing our organisation to adapt promptly to this emergency.
“I thank the digital teams whose determination has made this possible within challenging timescales. There is much work ahead, but I encourage all NHS colleagues to use Microsoft Teams as their secure communication and collaboration tool as we respond to support Scotland’s health and wellbeing in these unparalleled times.”
Colleagues have embraced the technology and quickly realised the advantages.
Doctor and Clinical Director for Clinical Informatics, Paul Campbell, said: “Microsoft Teams is already proving invaluable to clinical colleagues in NHS Scotland.
“It has reduced the need for face-to-face meetings and streamlined the co-ordination and communication of plans and information. It has also brought clinical teams together, often across boundaries and disciplines.
“These teams have been able to create and share guidelines, understand and manage staffing challenges, and provide an immediate communication network to support remote working.
“It has helped them respond rapidly to the significant changes in clinical practice that have been required to help save lives during this national crisis.”
Christopher McKenna, Medical Director, NHS Fife, reflected: “Teams has been utterly pivotal for us. It has been critical to running our service at this time."
Microsoft made Teams available globally, for free, last month to business and personal customers for six months. The tech giant has been working in close partnership with NHS Scotland and Scottish Government Digital Health and care teams.
Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft UK, said: “Microsoft is fully committed to assisting the NHS at this incredibly challenging time. Our team has worked closely with NHS Scotland to accelerate the rollout of Microsoft Teams to all health boards across the country. As a result, the hardworking doctors, nurses and support staff of NHS Scotland are already benefiting from this new way of working as they pursue their vital work. We are hugely appreciative of their ongoing efforts to tackle COVID-19 and will continue to provide support however best we can.”