Phil Campbell, European Sales Director, Quanika

Hospitals are facing the toughest of times, with staff under huge pressure. For over a year now, Quanika has been working behind the scenes with one of the UK’s leading NHS Trusts, collaborating with their IT department and consultants to introduce better access control systems for staff and contractors, to streamline visitor management, and to make more efficient use of facilities.

We have tested, refined, and implemented innovative solutions, and we’re delighted that the solution we’ve created has now been approved as the trust’s standard technology.

Separately, we’ve also been working with one of Ireland’s leading hospitals, and we’re now talking to healthcare providers in other countries too.

What has our work over the last year involved? The Trust wanted a modular solution that could be broken down into sub-systems for flexibility and future extension, all using the same core database, in this case Active Directory, which is standard across the UK’s NHS.

The solution we’ve developed streamlines and automates a number of key management processes: the way staff are directed to different facilities, as schedules change day by day; how they are presented with up to date site-specific ‘housekeeping’ information; how they are allocated parking spaces once they arrive; how they can rapidly gain entry to car parks and buildings, even when they have never been to a particular location before; and how they log on to all the IT networks and systems they need to use wherever they happen to be.

What we’ve come up with is an overarching solution will make life easier for everyone – from temporary staff to senior managers – by removing obstacles and by standardizing access procedures.

A key consideration is that there is a pool of over 4,500 floating staff working at this particular Trust, and they all need to be able to move from location to location depending on changing clinical needs and operational pressures. With this new system they’ll benefit from the same, smooth arrivals process at whichever of the two-hundred-plus hospitals, clinics or local facilities they happen to be working.

Over time, this daily convenience will add up, reducing stress and saving wasted minutes. And while the trust will now have greater oversight and control over its security and building systems, for authorized staff and visitors the barriers to entry will feel less onerous, not more.

With the system’s modular architecture, it will be easy for to add other functions too.

For example, we are already working with partners to develop options for allowing automated access – via secure QR codes sent to authorized users – to items and supplies kept in secure storage areas and lockers. This function could be used by cleaners needing to gain access to the cleaning cupboard (with the same system doubling up as a time and attendance tool for their managers); it could be used by out-patients who need to collect or return medical items; or it could be used by clinicians or support staff, giving efficient access to important equipment – all with the option for improved security and audit trails.

Every time the Trust has given us a new challenge over the last year, we’ve welcomed the opportunity to help. We’ve been grateful to have such a valuable testbed for our solutions, and to be working with some of the best technology partners in the industry, most notably Axis Communications.

Looking ahead, we are now working on an exciting cost and energy reduction solution for the Trust’s data centre, taking a novel approach, which we believe has huge potential across the sector. By integrating thermal cameras, temperature control and HVAC systems – and combining those with our visitor management infrastructure – we can achieve a significant saving on cooling requirements.

The NHS is under huge pressure but even now trusts are thinking ahead. Every saving made on costs will allow resources to be diverted elsewhere. And every reduction in energy waste will help towards achieving vital carbon cutting goals.

With a further multi-billion pound investment allocated by the UK government in October 2020 as part of the health infrastructure plan (HIP) adding 40 additional new hospitals, the challenge will be to spend efficiently. The best innovations solve short term problems but also look towards long term gains.