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CSU: Intelligent interface

CSU: Intelligent interface

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Commissioning support units offer a range of business intelligence tools to support the work of clinical commissioners and allow them to benchmark practice performance

In the heart of England, NHS Arden Commissioning Support provides a full range of commissioning support services to six clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). Structured on a professional services model, the commissioning support unit (CSU) has moved away from a traditional hierarchical structure, with just four layers of management and encourages staff to be agile within this matrix. Members of the leadership team of eight act as relationship managers, providing one point of contact for each of the CCGs’ executive teams.

NHS Arden CSU uses its size and lean structure to develop and adapt to deliver creative and innovative work for its clients. Two of its unique selling points are its collaboration with other organisations and thought leadership around what transformed commissioning could look like and the future skills that are needed. It is also very focused on how its CCGs can be best placed to respond to the Francis report and what might be needed around the next phase of quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP). 

The CSU has expertise in service redesign and transformation and it’s from within this team that its bespoke business intelligence system, Ventris, has evolved to meet local healthcare information needs. GPs and practice managers, alongside their CCG management colleagues, are increasingly turning to Ventris to support both day-to-day patient management as well as service redesign projects.

The system has been developed and in use across the Warwickshire and Coventry NHS organisations for just over 10 years under various different guises. It started out in 2002 as the integrated reporting information system (IRIS), created to provide intelligence around activity, to support a number of key business areas, including contracting and finance. As more information became available from secondary care providers and the commissioning needs of primary care changed, IRIS was further developed with a view to inform GP practices about their patients’ pathways in secondary care and the system ‘Evolve’ was born in August 2007.  

Evolve was initially rolled out to GP practices in Warwickshire and then to Coventry practices following the merger of NHS Warwickshire and NHS Coventry in April 2011. In tandem with the formation of NHS Arden Commissioning Support CSU, Evolve underwent a major redevelopment at the beginning of 2013, to extend and enhance the functionality, navigation system and user interface. The extensive work led to a rebranding of the system and a name change to Ventris. Working with CCGs across neighbouring Worcestershire, system users have increased dramatically over the last few months, to include all GP practices in South Worcestershire, Wyre Forest, Redditch and Bromsgrove. Now, nearly 1,500 people in local health practices, CCGs and our public health colleagues are using the system to help understand their local health requirements.

Margaret Weston, Primary Care Intelligence Manager at the CSU, explains how it can help. She said: “Ventris is designed to help clinicians and health care managers improve outcomes for patients. Its intuitive dashboard allows individual practices to see how they are performing. Effective use of the system can help practices improve the care they provide and reduce costs.”

Tim Morris, practice manager from Waterside Medical Centre in Warwick said: “Ventris is extremely user friendly and intuitive. It works on a ‘click-through’ basis, meaning a practice can look at activity and, within a click or two, be down to patient level activity.”

Feedback from users highlights the critical nature of the system to ongoing performance. It provides real-time data, meaning GPs can find out which of their patients have attended accident and emergency over a given period and whether that was within surgery opening hours, it allows the user to have up to date information at their fingertips. It also displays the costs of services that have been commissioned, which can help highlight potential opportunities for more efficient service delivery, such as providing more treatment locally and reducing reliance on secondary care settings.

CCGs have the ability to see how practices are performing against their peers and identify ‘outliers’ using statistical analysis to identify variation which can be shared at peer reviews to help and support GPs by sharing best practice. The CSU and CCGs are able to see how contracts are performing using the contract and finance monitoring section of the application. 

It is continually being developed to provide new data and reports to help users, both at a practice and CCG level. NHS Arden Commissioning Support’s Business Intelligence team is horizon scanning to ensure that the application is meeting the needs of its customers. Many new reports are currently in development including: any qualified provider (AQP), quality and outcome framework (QOF) clinical comparators, practice budget statements and a patient centric database.

Weston said: “Quality is at the heart of our development and we work in collaboration with our customers to support not only the management team but the GPs, to enable them to achieve a number of quality targets and assist in significant savings for their practices. This approach allows Ventris to deliver a high quality service for our customers at all levels. 

“As more GP practices adopt it, the interest in it is growing and we’re frequently talking to potential customers and demonstrating the system. It is considered to be a highly functional, valuable tool. One aspect of the product that customers really appreciate that it is a business system developed by the NHS for the NHS and, as such, supports all aspects of NHS commissioning.” 

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