NHS Digital delivers in Exeter

NHS Digital delivers in Exeter

Joan Foreman explains more...

Joan Foreman is the Head of the Digital Delivery Centre in Exeter for NHS Digital, the national information and technology partner to the health and social care system.

NHS Digital is a public sector organisation of 3,000 people based largely in Leeds, but with 300 people working at the Exeter Hub. The Exeter team cover a range of areas including delivery of digital services (through the Digital Delivery Centre), service management, application support and hosting, as well as providing a national contact centre.

Joan’s role covers a wide range of areas from oversight of the day to day running of the department, to building relationships with local academic institutions and technology companies to identify areas of common interest.  The Digital Delivery Centre in Exeter forms part of the wider NHS Digital Delivery team and is comprised of 130 staff including developers, business analysts, system engineers, delivery managers and testers.

We met with Joan, to find out more about NHS Digital and the services the Exeter team delivers.

Joan said: “Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to improve health and care

“The working day is centred around communication and technology – developers, testers and analysts partner-up to jointly deliver incremental changes. Through collaborative activities the team support each other to focus on their common goal and ensure the best possible outcome for patients - the end beneficiaries of our work.”


Service Case Study: Bowel Cancer Screening

Our work covers a number of key national services supporting the NHS, including the e-Referral Services, NHS 111 Directory of Services and Bowel Cancer Screening.

Currently one of the key deliverables the team is working on are the changes to Bowel Cancer Screening system required to support the introduction of the new bowel cancer home testing kit. The test will be offered to all men and women aged 60 to 74, every 2 years.

Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives – if diagnosed early, more than 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully. Bowel cancer is currently the second biggest cancer killer in England, it is hoped the new screening test will make a real difference.

The team’s work focuses on how to manage delivery of the IT system which supports the bowel cancer screening programme. In the last 12 months the Bowel Cancer Screening System invited 4.9 million people for bowel cancer screening; processed the results of 2.9 million returned kits. The result of this is that over the last 12 months the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme identified 3,149 cancers.

Technology development

The team is continuously innovating. Current projects include increasing the level of automation within the build pipelines and leveraging cloud technologies to deliver cutting-edge services – e.g. automatic scaling under heavy use, and automatic recovery from system failures. The team is also exploring the opportunities for AI especially in areas of predictive behaviour.

Joan said: “This is a very exciting time for the use of technology in NHS and Social Care.

We are looking at opportunities to work with local academic and technology companies specialising in areas including neural networks looking at predictive behaviour and analytics; distributed trust solutions with Blockchain technology; companies using cloud technologies to deliver highly-secure, highly-available and highly-scalable containerised application; and other innovative use cases using leading edge technologies that can benefit our healthcare systems.”

Skills in STEMM

NHS Digital is keen to develop and support people entering into STEMM careers: the Digital Delivery Centre in Exeter has several initiatives operating to encourage skill development, welcoming more than nine young people through various schemes in the current year.

Last month the Exeter team welcomed the first three apprentices. The apprentices will be working towards their degrees BSc (Hons) in Digital & Technology Solutions which is awarded by QA & University of Roehampton, while simultaneously gaining valuable, real work experience.

Last year, NHS Digital Exeter took on a 1-year placement student.  This year the opportunity has been expanded to offer three computer science students the placement opportunity.

The team is now looking to bring in technology graduates to join the two-year graduate training programme from September 2019.

Joan said: “We have been really impressed with the quality of the students who have come to work with us – this has led to us scaling up our placement opportunities immediately.  Personally, I would encourage students to consider a future in digital technology – there are new and exciting opportunities in this field all the time.”

For more information on NHS Digital, visit https://digital.nhs.uk To get in touch with the Exeter NHS Digital contact Joan Foreman on 01392 687025.

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