Health Minister announces landmark digital contract award

Date published: 10 June 2020

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced a major step towards the radical digital transformation of our health service, with the award of a landmark contract.

Covid-19 Update

The Minister said the major investment means the days of relying heavily on paper patient records are coming to an end.

Announcing the contract award for Encompass, Mr Swann said:

“Digital transformation will have a vital role in the rebuilding of health and social care in the wake of the first Covid-19 wave.

 “For example, virtual clinics will increasingly be embedded in the provision of care. That innovation has been fast tracked as a result of Coronavirus. It is here to stay. Further digital innovation will revolutionise services and Encompass is a major step in that direction.”

Encompass involves the creation of a single Digital Care Record for every citizen, bringing important benefits for both the public and staff. It forms part of a planned £300m ICT investment over 10 years that will create 200 additional jobs.

The Minister today announced the award of the Encompass contract to Epic Systems, a global leader in patient systems.

Following four years of planning and business case processes and a successfully completed competitive tender,  the contract will see Epic collaborating with Encompass, HSCNI frontline staff, operational management, and patients and carers to implement a single Digital Care Record for every citizen and enabling the digital transformation of our workflows and services.

Encompass is a critical enabler of the wider transformation programme for health and social care. It will link in with work on waiting times; actions around Mental Health; reconfiguration of hospital services; the development of day case elective centres; delivery of transformed cancer services; and support community engagement and co-design.

Minister Swann said: “We are calling time on the current situation of multiple, ageing digital systems and a large reliance on the paper record.  This investment will improve outcomes for our patients and service users by making it easier for our HSC professionals to deliver sustainable, high quality care, improved efficiencies and greater collaboration across all care settings.”

The Minister also confirmed that the response to Covid-19 is still currently taking precedence, but it would be a disservice to the NI population and those working so hard in the HSC to stall on this opportunity.

“It will be important that we work to understand the impact that our response to COVID-19 has had on our system, the transformations which have happened as a result of this, and how we incorporate this progress and learning into our Transformation journey moving forward.

 “There will of course be challenges in planning such a major digital transformation in the face of ongoing uncertainty, but I am reassured that the encompass team and Epic will continue to be working hard in the background so that when we emerge from COVID, we are best placed to build on the experiences of frontline staff, patients and the public to deliver services that are more digitally transformed, virtualised and sustainable into the future.”

Epic Systems will bring over 40 years of experience of successful implementations at 300+ organisations like HSCNI and are considered to be the global leaders in terms of their technology and their strong support for successful implementation and ongoing development and improvement. The contract with Epic is part of an overall investment of £300m over the next decade, which includes investment in the ICT infrastructure required and the creation of over 200 additional jobs within HSCNI.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Encompass will deliver a regional integrated electronic health and care record solution across our acute and community services which will replace the myriad of ageing Health and Social Care (HSC) systems currently in place, foremost being the Patient Administration Systems (PAS), that are approaching obsolescence.
  2. Encompass will replace most of our paper-based care processes and support our HSC professionals to work efficiently and effectively, and underpin sustainable transformation of HSCNI services.  Professionals will be able to spend more of their time providing direct patient care - and it will improve safety by allowing all professionals involved in a person’s care to view the same information, and by building in guidelines to support decision making and safety alerts around, for example, medications, sepsis and fluid management.
  3. Encompass will enable a vast improvement in the data available to manage HSC services – for example enabling referral to treatment times to be tracked for the first time in Northern Ireland, and capturing outcomes. Timely and quality data collected as a by-product of care processes will be to be used more pro-actively to support people before they need hospital care, and the integral Patient Portal will support closer working with people to help them manage their own care.
  4. The South Eastern Trust will be the first Trust to ‘Go Live’, in 2022, following a regional design and configuration process involving staff, patients and carers from throughout the service, with all Trusts anticipated to be using the encompass solution by the end of 2024 across hospital, community and social care services.
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