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Turning a good idea into reality: the integral role of a project manager

Turning a good idea into a working reality can have huge significance as the NHS navigates the delivery of digital health solutions.

It is the focus of many NHS organisations as they look to increase the range of digital health tools and services to benefit patients and staff.

The management and delivery of these aims, however, can often prove challenging. This is where a project manager is integral.

The Health Informatics Service (THIS) currently employs nine project managers, plus a project support officer. It typically facilitates 40-50 projects for its host trust, the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT), and other healthcare clients at any one time.

All THIS project managers are Prince2 practitioners and base their work on that methodology. However, they can tailor work according to size and complexity and will introduce agile methodology to suit a client.

What is a project?

David Armitage, one of THIS’ senior project managers, defines a project as work that:

  • Requires multiple skills.
  • Is delivered to a timescale.
  • Has budget restraints.

Other questions need answers, such as whether the project is needed, what is it trying to achieve, is it affordable, and does it fit with an overall strategy?

David Armitage: “Our project managers are a source of truth of where you’re up to, and they can find a way through a maze of problems. They also ensure the organisation has confidence the project is being governed properly and the business and finance is being checked, watched, and managed.”


The role of a project manager

THIS’ Project Management Office (PMO) Manager is Julie Howson. She says: “Project managers are front and centre from the very beginning. We facilitate the writing of business cases and we're there through every stage of a project’s lifecycle. It’s like writing the song, the music, playing it, getting a record deal, and releasing it!”

David Armitage likens a project to projecting light through a prism to identify and simplify its lifecycle, consider its key elements, and illustrate the importance of ownership, delegation, and communication.

But what makes a good project manager?

David Armitage: “You must be organised, personable, a good listener, communicator, and co-ordinator. You must ask questions but really listen to what people are telling you and be flexible.”

Case study: information sharing on a mum-to-be’s maternity journey

The mother-centric shared maternity record enables all trusts involved within the West Yorkshire and Harrogate local maternity system to share specific documents relating to care during the maternity journey of a mum-to-be.

With new integration, if a mum-to-be booked at CHFT visits a neighbouring trust, staff there will be able to check the portal for her relevant details. Likewise, if CHFT staff are registering someone booked elsewhere they will be able see relevant details.

David Armitage, who managed the project, says: “Immediate access to healthcare information all in one place means fewer delays in treatment and provides extra support to clinicians.”

Emma Burbidge, CHFT Maternity EPR Lead, says: “Having a project manager for the maternity data sharing project has been invaluable. Dave has co-ordinated and liaised at every stage to ensure all ran smoothly and knew process to follow when issues arose.”

Nurturing the next generation of talent

THIS is not just about senior project managers; it also has a graduate recruitment scheme.

Julie Howson: “We train in-house to our high standards, and we actively look to promote people internally, who have demonstrated the experience or relevant skills required to do project management and watch them go on and flourish.”

Further reading

You can read an in-depth profile of THIS’ healthcare project management expertise, and if you’d like to discuss a new or impending project, contact us.

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