How Trustmarque’s Virtual Desktops for Health empowers GPs to work remotely
The virtual desktop solution can be launched anywhere and from any Smart device, including laptops, Macs, Notebooks and smartphones – providing there is a secure WiFi or 4G connection. Users simply download and launch an application hosted in Windows 10 Virtual Desktop. Access to clinical applications is then authenticated via physical or Isosec virtual smartcards.
It is a particularly safe option for colleagues who are vulnerable, self-isolating or recently returned to work, reducing the need for contact and PPE. It has been designed to provide primary care professionals with easy, secure and flexible access to work across practices and other primary care services including NHS111, Out of Hours and Urgent Care.
A collaborative approach – introducing the project team and current users
The initial project team includes colleagues from Trustmarque, Microsoft, a select group of GPs in Nottingham, and Ciaron Hoye, Programme Director for the East Midlands Local Health and Care Record. Together, they have been working on the solution development and roll-out to early adopters.
Over 500 clinical users have actively used the system to date in practices across Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, East England and London. However, it is hoped this will be extended to other GPs and users in the near future.
James Butler, Chief Technology Officer at Trustmarque, commented on the collaborative success of the project: “I could not be prouder of what the team has accomplished in a short time. There have been many remote access and VDI solutions already deployed in the NHS. However, they have largely been traditional ones – requiring corporate devices for safe VPN access and expensive hardware purchases for traditional VDI, and sufficient network bandwidth for the remote connectivity. Both reduce the flexibility to respond to the unexpected and present rapid change.
“A public cloud-based VDI model resolves those drawbacks and we have proved not only that it works, but that it is possible to deploy in weeks not months. However, the urgency of the project has dictated the speed of the deployment – this is not a normal scenario.”
Laying the foundations to accelerate digital transformation in the NHS
The solution comes as a new report on Digital Transformation in the NHS by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals that transformation has been poorly adopted, with previous major national programmes being closed early without achieving the desired objectives. However, it states that transformation is a critical tactic which must remain a priority focus for the Department of Health & Social Care and its arm’s-length bodies.
While designed as a rapid response to the Covid-19 challenges, Trustmarque’s Virtual Desktops for Health is not a temporary solution and instead aims to bring lasting benefits and efficiencies, including up to 30% saving over a standard infrastructure lifecycle.
James Butler said that while the NHS has in the past faced challenges in the widespread adoption of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and similar initiatives, as highlighted in the NAO report, he hopes this project will act to “accelerate technology transformation” moving forward.
“The NHS has been wary of public cloud adoption…I hope this demonstrates the benefits it can offer as part of a broader hybrid architecture and that the NHS can accelerate its technology transformation, which is long overdue.” James Butler
He commented: “The NHS-specific challenges of applications and HSCN connectivity have not been materially different than the challenges seen in organisations from other sectors such as financial services that have previously adopted VDI. For over a decade, people have been predicting every year as ‘the year of VDI’, due to its potential benefits. But in practice, building VDI solutions has been a challenging process, particularly in the health sector.”
Building in the cloud has solved many of those challenges. For example, not needing to choose the right hardware up front, identifying all use cases and needs in advance, and not needing to have hardware sitting idle ready for peak workloads.
“The NHS has been wary of public cloud adoption compared to other sectors – including when compared to central and local government,” adds James. “But I hope this demonstrates the benefits it can offer as part of a broader hybrid architecture and that the NHS can accelerate its technology transformation, which is long overdue.”