Interview: Why the NHS is struggling to move to the Cloud?

BBH editor, Jo Makosinski, speaks to Paul Parker of SolarWinds about the reasons behind the NHS's delay in moving to the Cloud

Paul Parker

Despite ploughing more than £50m into the digital transformation of the NHS, evidence suggests only a handful of trusts have adopted the Government’s ‘cloud first’ policy.

NHS Digital spent more than £32m on digital transformation consultancy services, and £23m with cloud, software and hardware providers between April and December 2017.

The ultimate goal of healthcare services is to make sure people have a better quality of life; and the goal of IT is to make sure they can deliver that

But, its bosses must be questioning why when less than a third of NHS trusts surveyed in January have adopted any level of public cloud and mistrust soars, according to recent findings from IT management software provider, SolarWinds.

The research questioned more than 200 NHS trusts and revealed that, while respondents were aware of the Government’s ‘cloud first’ policy, less than a third have begun the transition.

Of those that have yet to adopt any level of public cloud, 64% cited security concerns, 57% blamed legacy tech, and 52% said budgets were the biggest barriers.

However, for respondents which had adopted some public cloud, budget registered as far more of a barrier (66%), followed by security and legacy technology (59% each).

And 8% of NHS trusts not using public cloud admitted they were using 10 or more monitoring tools to try and control their environment, compared to just 5% of NHS trusts with public cloud.

In addition, monitoring and managing the public cloud remains an issue, even after adoption – with 49% of trusts with some public cloud struggling to determine suitable workloads for the environment.

Other issues included visibility of cloud performance (47%) and protecting and securing cloud data (45%)

And 6% of NHS trusts still expect to see no return on investment at all from public cloud adoption.

Speaking exclusively to BBH about the findings, SolarWinds’ chief technologist of federal and national government, Paul Parker, said: “Cloud is this wonderful, ephemeral term that few people know how to put into a solid thought process.

“From the survey results what we have seen is that the whole ‘cloud first’ initiative has no real momentum and no one particularly driving it along.

“While there are a lot of organisations trying to get off of legacy technology, and a push to modernise architecture, they are missing out.”

Improvements to training are vital, he added.

From the survey results what we have seen is that the whole ‘cloud first’ initiative has no real momentum and no one particularly driving it along

“There’s a lot of fear about what people don’t understand, and a lot of comfort in what they have always done; so trying to move into something new tends to cause a lot of anxiety and unrest,” he said.

“People tend to believes there’s this tremendous return on investment to moving into the cloud when, in reality, you are shifting the cost from capital to operating expenses. It is not necessarily a cost saving in terms of architecture and people need to recognise that.

“Rather than owning the infrastructure, with cloud you are leasing it, so it doesn’t change the level of investment much.”

There are savings to be had, though, and they come from converging job roles and improving access to medical records, for example.

The NHS has been slow at adopting cloud-based technology

Parker said: “With cloud you do not need a monitoring team for every piece of architecture, so while there are savings to be had, they are more operational.

“With a cloud infrastructure everything is ready at the click of a button.”

Moving forwards, he advises: “It’s that old adage of ‘evolution, not revolution’.

“There are gaps across the map.

“There needs to be technology training and the NHS needs to have an overarching goal, rather than simply moving to the cloud.

“The first thing trusts need to do is look at their current environment and determine what’s there, what’s critical and what’s non critical. That will enable them to focus on moving the non-critical things into a cloud environment without jeapardising anyone’s heath or life or affecting security.

There needs to be technology training and the NHS needs to have an overarching goal, rather than simply moving to the cloud

“That will help everyone to better understand the benefits of the cloud and to build trust.

“I would also like to see a top-down approach in terms of policy and direction.

“The ultimate goal of healthcare services is to make sure people have a better quality of life; and the goal of IT is to make sure they can deliver that.

“As IT experts, it is our job to trying and help them to do that and to make IT easier and more affordable.”

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