BOB in conversation with...Oliver Shipp, Global Digital Exemplar Lead

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 |

As part of a new blog series, we’re speaking to members of the BOB community to find out more about their work and experiences of using BOB. In the first blog of the series, we spoke to Global Digital Exemplar Lead at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Oliver Shipp. He told us about his experiences of rolling out a widespread digital consultations programme during the COVID-19 pandemic and how BOB made the process of telling his story simple.

Can you tell me more about the Global Digital Exemplar programme and your role?

Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) is an internationally recognised NHS provider delivering improvements in the quality of care, through the world-class use of digital technologies and information. There are about 60 mental health trusts in England and only seven have this status, so it’s something we’re extremely proud of here at Oxford Health. The key idea behind the programme is to help us to take our digital skills to the next level and share learnings of how we’ve implemented our ideas to help others learn from. The programme has been going for a couple of years and we have another year to go. I strongly feel that it is my duty as a GDE Lead to be doing all I can to share good practice.

How has being a GDE helped in the current situation?

In the context of digital consultations and coronavirus, we’re starting to realise the benefits of being a GDE. Prior to the pandemic we had already funded and rolled out Microsoft Office 365 and so we were already using Microsoft Teams internally for calls and collaboration projects. Additionally, we’d just started to test it with patients through our Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service. What this meant was that we had the technology in place, information governance sign-off, we had the policies written, and a bit of experience implementing it with clinicians. We hadn’t managed to get adoption at scale with clinicians, but it was early days, and then Covid hit. Because we had all the other things in place, all we needed was the clinicians to start picking it up and using it, which they did, brilliantly! Being a GDE meant we had the infrastructure in place and also a culture of being open to new ways of working and adopting new technology. 

Can you describe the journey of getting the team on board?

Almost overnight, clinicians were being asked to try to avoid physical contact with patients; at the same time there was a need to continue patients’ consultations across our trust, which covers mental health and community care. Digital consultations were the obvious solution for keeping everyone safe by meeting remotely rather than in person, without interrupting treatment. While we recognise it may not suit every situation, there have been some interesting results. For example in discussions with our dental colleagues, at first we all wondered how on earth we would be able to do dental consultations via Teams, now they’re doing hundreds of them! You assume that a dental consultation is all about looking in your mouth, but actually it’s more than that. They do specialist dentistry, so they can ask about pain, and see swellings through a video consultation. Having the technology in place has allowed our clinicians to innovate.

What prompted you to share your story on

After a few weeks our digital consultations had gone through the roof. We were starting to have conversations with other trusts to share our learning and had received some informal approaches to share our story. The structure of BOB was incredibly helpful - being able to click through and easily see and think about answers to questions before populating, and in just one evening your story is complete. I also recognised the benefit of having the story written up on a website that I can direct people to when they approach me, which is super helpful. I can just tell people to go and read my story on BOB and come back if they have any questions, rather than repeating myself to lots of different people. Also, frankly it makes us feel good as well, as the team and clinicians doing it. To know that this is something that’s been recognised and talked about and seen as good practice makes us positive and makes people feel happy and proud of the work they’re doing, which has got to be a good thing.

What do you think are some of the potential challenges people face when considering sharing their story?

The difficulty may be that people are already busy, and may be in the middle of their project. They may wonder ‘how are we going to take time to write this up?’. There’s tons and tons of good practice happening right now, but a lot of the people think they’re way too busy to write up their experiences, which is such a shame because now is the time when reading an impact story about something that’s happened during Covid could be really useful. It’s really important to get your story out there as now is the time people need the help.

What was your experience of using BOB’s writing engine?

The tool is really easy to use and is very intuitive. You can sit down in an evening and you can write up your whole story through the bitesize steps. It doesn’t take as long as you might fear. The formatting and putting it together is done for you, so you don’t have to worry about making it look presentable. Each question is word limited and has prompts making it really easy to answer. The word limit was a big bonus for me as it kept me tight and focused on my responses. The system has already been designed to quickly and easily share your story, so you don’t need to know about websites etcetera. Instead it works in a similar way to having a conversation. All you need to know is what you did and answer the questions - the rest is done for you. There could be great benefits for you and your colleagues by sharing your story and I would encourage others to do so.

How else do you share learnings from the GDE programme?

Within the GDE programme we have something called Blueprints. These are formal academic-style documents that undergo several rounds of peer-review. They’re very thorough documents and can take quite some time to complete, providing a very in depth assessment of a project. These are brilliant and allow us to share a robust assessment of our work with other trusts.

BOB provides a perfect additive service to support Blueprints by telling a punchy version of the story that can be published at any stage of a project to provide the ‘recipe’ for others wanting to do something similar. The tool is really nice and easy to use and guides you through the process of creating a story that can be done quickly, which is particularly important during Covid. 

What do you see the future holding for your project post-Covid?

We’re very keen to make sure the benefits of digital consultations continue. Despite the challenging times we’re living in, they have really helped us to break through a barrier to getting fast adoption of technology. Our clinicians have been brilliant at embracing this when they might have been reluctant before. We plan to continue with Microsoft Teams and Bookings moving forward, particularly as social distancing is likely to remain in place for some time.

One of the effects of this current situation is that pretty much everyone, to some degree or another, is working online, so that gives us an opportunity for the learning to be spread more in different ways such as education and peer-to-peer support. I would hope that that is going to take off more and reach groups that hadn’t accessed online services before.

NHS staff can sign-up for free to read Oliver's impact story - click here

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