14 November 2023 Articles

In it for the duration!


On the eve of the 1997 election, Tony Blair famously told voters they had 24 hours to save the NHS! 1997 also happens to be the year Apira was founded, and we have worked hard since then to do our bit to support the NHS, working with over 100 NHS organisations to justify, buy and deploy systems which help to improve the quality and safety of care delivery, and improve patient experience. 

Many people know Apira for our work supporting NHS trusts to develop business cases to support investments in data and technology, and rightly so. Together with our strategic partners including KPMG we have developed more business cases over the last 2 years than any other consultancy supporting NHS trusts participating in the NHS England frontline digitisation programme. 

The quality of our work is often highlighted by those involved in the review and approval process. The London North West Healthcare and Hillingdon Hospitals EPR business case “should be seen as an exemplar” according to one national reviewer, and the quality of our benefits work was highlighted recently by another “you know with Apira the benefits are going to be high quality.” Indeed, we have also been asked by NHS England to conduct peer reviews on other business cases developed by other consultancies. With 8 Better Business Case accredited practitioners amongst our ranks, our clients can be assured that we will deliver a value for money trust owned case which not only meets the HM Treasury Green Book standard, but also sets a foundation for a successful deployment.  

We also have vast experience in supporting NHS trusts to run safe, open, transparent and compliant procurements; and to successfully contract with EPR vendors for solutions which provide value for money to the trusts; and create the right relationship with suppliers. This is recognised by many, with Apira having supported over 10 acute trusts including Mid Cheshire, East Cheshire, London North West Healthcare and The Hillingdon Hospitals to safely contract with EPR vendors over the last two years alone. 

One reason for the success of our business case and procurement assignments is that they are informed by our experience in deploying systems across the NHS. 

Acute EPR deployments 

Despite our significant presence across the NHS, many are unaware about our contributions to acute EPR deployments. While those who follow our news may have noticed our contribution as deployment partners in supporting EPR go-lives at Sheffield Health and Social Care (Rio) and Devon Partnership (TPP) in the last month, many are still unaware that we extend our resources to acute EPR deployment projects throughout England. This includes providing large teams for some clients and a select number of specialist resources for others. 

We have a diverse team supporting acute EPR deployments across the country, including EPR Programme Directors, Programme Managers, Business Managers, Business Analysts, Config Leads, Testers, Communication Leads, Benefits Leads and others. We are actively involved in acute EPR deployments across regions such as London, Yorkshire, Cheshire, West Midlands, the South West and the East Midlands. They are dedicated to deploying EPR systems, including Oracle Cerner Millennium, Meditech Expanse, Altera Sunrise and others. 

We firmly believe that the heart of the deployment team needs to be within the trust – with those who will live with the system for years to come, but we recognise that most, if not all trusts require additional capacity and capability for periods through the deployment, from the initial readiness work, through to go-live and to benefits realisation and system optimisation. 

Working as blended trust teams 

For many of our contracts we work directly for acute trusts, whereas for others we work as part of blended external teams, sometimes working through partners, and sometimes bringing partners in to work through Apira. Often, we also collaborate with other partners trusts bring in. 

With the challenges of resources – both internal and external – we recognise the need for trusts to bring in hybrid models to secure the resources they need on major EPR change programs. Our focus is on those who commission our services – NHS trusts – along with their staff and patients / service users. Our ability to work with a range of partners in a cohesive way, including as part of the newly launched EPR Alliance, is something that is recognised as a major benefit of using Apira and we know from feedback that this isn’t just felt by our customers – it’s also felt by the other consultancies we work with, and others involved in the deployments, including the EPR vendors.   

We are not an agency – we are delivery and outcome focused and we are vested in the programmes we work on, augmenting and blending into NHS trust teams. Providing support as a “service” helps to de-risk delivery for our clients who know that we will replace resources if for whatever reason our staff are unavailable, for example through holidays or being unwell.  

Additionally, we know requirements change, and our clients can feel safe in the knowledge that our agile and flexible approach means we can rapidly increase the level of support at busy times or reduce at less busy periods. Working with over 30 NHS trusts at any one time means our teams get experience and share best-practice across the NHS. We also have a small number of trusted partners who we bring in to add specialist interim resources. The resources become part of the Apira family, receiving a structured induction and access to tools and information to support them in their role, which helps them to quickly get up-to speed with our ways of working, and Apira’s values and behaviors.  

We are also careful not to have all our eggs in one basket – recent experiences have shown the potential negative consequences for consultancies when contracts end prematurely, or projects face delays. In this regard, we have strategically distributed our resources across the NHS, avoiding dependence on one or two major clients. This approach not only safeguards against the catastrophic impacts we have seen with other consultancies recently, but also fosters positive behaviours among our staff. Whilst we continue to grow and on-board new clients monthly, we don’t let this distract from our number 1 priority of supporting our existing clients and delivering high-quality work for them. Our commitment to delivering for existing clients and developing long term relationships with our clients remains fundamental to our success. 

Our flexible approach also means we can manage changes in scope, and we will always look to provide the best value for money for our customers. This means for example if a trust wants to re-purpose part of our delivery to other areas, we will do that without a fuss and where possible without adding in costs.  

Adding value to our clients is something we pride ourselves on. As an example, at one trust, we are supporting by providing an EPR Business Manager responsible for managing the reporting of progress, spend and benefits of their EPR programme within the trust and to regional and national stakeholders. Having worked as an EPR programme director previously means that he can provide valuable insight and wise counsel to the trust’s EPR programme director in other aspects relating to the programme.  

Whilst we have seen our client base grow significantly in the last 4 years, we remain an organisation who people want to come and work for, and to stay working for, which is evidenced by our fantastic staff retention figures. Our organisation boasts a diverse team spanning various levels. While we actively recruit across all levels, we prioritise bringing in colleagues who can effectively drive projects, whether they are at the entry level or in leadership positions. We never forget the purpose of our business and all of our team, from the Managing Director to our Junior Consultants, are hands-on delivering value to our customers. As we have grown, we have also seen colleagues taking on more responsibility in leading projects and representing Apira at events and engaging with prospective new clients, which has not only helped their development, but also supported succession planning within the company.  

At Apira we are focused on project delivery and providing tangible outcomes which make a significant difference to those working in NHS trusts, patients, and service users. We lead from the front. All our directors continue to work on NHS trust projectsthey are not just the sales team. That day-to-day interaction helps to keep us grounded, and to understand our customers’ needs at  all levels of the company 

If you would like to find out more about our services please contact Rory Dennis, Director of Growth at rory.dennis@apira.co.uk    

Author: David Corbett

David is an Executive Director and Board member at Apira. He is an experienced digital leader and Project Executive having led the roll-out of national and regional programmes for NHS Digital and NHS England including the NHS WiFi programme, and the South Acute Programme which supported over 20 NHS Trusts across the South of England to buy and deployed EPR and related digital clinical systems. He joined Apira 5 years ago and oversees delivery of our services across many national, regional and local projects, and leads Apira’s commercial and business development functions.  David also leads our Acute business unit and is our lead for the EPR Alliance alongside other members including KPMG, Stalis and Aire Logic.