Contact us

If you’ve got a story or event for the GPSJ website, e-mail Stuart Littleford at editor@gpsj.co.uk

December 2018
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust employs Thoughtonomy Virtual Workers alongside human teams to improve patient experience and boost employee satisfaction

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Groundbreaking intelligent automation program highlights huge potential for realizing efficiency benefits rapidly across the NHS

Working with Thoughtonomy, ESNEFT has cut the time taken to process the first stage of each GP referral from 15-20 minutes down to five minutes.  The program will eliminate the need for staff to spend more than 100 hours a week processing paperwork and instead ensures referrals are actioned 24/7.

The intelligent automation program, which has been running since July is the first of its kind within the NHS and is initially being deployed in five specialist clinical units – Neurology, Cardiology, Urology, Nephrology and Haematology. Within the first three months, the Trust released more than 500 hours of medical secretaries’ time and estimates it will also save £220,000 in associated direct costs by July 2019.

Darren Atkins, Deputy Director of ICT at ESNEFT, said: “We’re delighted with the results we’ve realized so far and are hugely excited about the potential benefits of automating more processes across our Trust. When you look at the time and cost savings we’ve already banked within just one specific area of our operations, you start to get an idea of how intelligent automation can drive transformation on a huge scale within the NHS.”

Using the Thoughtonomy Virtual Workforce® platform, three virtual workers at Ipswich Hospital actively monitor incoming referrals from the national GP Electronic Referral Service (eRS) in real-time, 24 hours a day. As soon as a referral is received, the virtual worker reads the content and extracts the reason for referral. It retrieves all relevant referral data and supporting clinical information such as scan and blood test results from disparate sources, before merging everything into a single pdf document. The virtual worker then uploads the document into the Trust’s administrative systems using highly secure smart card technology and alerts the lead consultant that the referral is ready for review and grading.

Prior to the automation program, medical secretaries were responsible for processing referrals manually, downloading and printing documents, which they then scanned into a new document.  In a large Trust such as ESNEFT, which deals with around 2,000 referrals per week, this was a huge drain on medical secretaries’ time.

According to the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), automation could save the NHS up to £12.5bn a year, the equivalent of 10% of its annual budget. In addition, it is estimated that a further £6bn could be saved through automation in social care. The recent Darzi Review of Health and Care called on healthcare bodies to ‘embrace full automation to release time to care’ as part of a 10 Point Plan to future-proof health and care services in the UK.

Terry Walby, CEO & Founder of Thoughtonomy, said: “Intelligent Automation has a massive role to play in streamlining time-consuming and inefficient processes across the NHS. By absorbing a wide range of time-intensive, repetitive tasks, we can unburden staff from administration and allow them, instead, to focus on delivering the excellent quality of care upon which we all rely. We’re delighted to be working with forward-thinking NHS Trusts, such as ESNEFT, who are championing the use of AI and automation technology in order to deliver real benefits to hardworking frontline staff while reducing costs. This, in turn, translates into a better patient experience for all.”

Frontline staff at ESNEFT have welcomed the new automated process. Dr Petr Pokorny, a Staff Grade Neurologist, said: “It allows for a more efficient, fluent flow of work, as it’s easier to deal with five new referrals every morning rather than a huge pile of 35 referrals once a week. What’s more, we now have our medical secretaries fully focused on the things that make a real difference to our staff and patients.”

The new automated referral process supports ESNEFT’s obligations under the Standard Contract for 2018/19 to process all referrals via the Electronic Referral Service (eRS), and to optimize its operations in line with the Paper Switch Off program, which comes into force on 1st October.

Thoughtonomy enables organizations to enhance the productivity of their workforce through the intelligent automation and digitization of knowledge work. It uses AI and robotic process automation software to emulate how people work, allowing companies to add flexible resources to their team without disruption and rapid ROI.

About Thoughtonomy

Thoughtonomy is an intelligent automation technology company that has created an award-winning platform to helps companies of all sizes improve the productivity of their workforce. Combining the principles of cloud computing, software robotics and artificial intelligence in a single integrated platform, our customers enjoy frictionless deployment of a digital workforce that delivers fast, measurable results in an infinite number of roles.

Thoughtonomy was founded in the UK in 2013 and now works with more than 200 clients in 29 countries and has offices in London and Manchester in the UK, New York and Austin in the US. Thoughtonomy’s SaaS platform combines AI and RPA to supply companies with virtual workers that automate office work.

For further information, please see thoughtonomy.com

Digitalisation: Businesses must mitigate against new, invisible risks

“Security systems must be up to date – particularly encryption and authentication technologies”

Written by Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

Digital transformation is happening everywhere at breakneck speed. Each year brings a new development or a new technology that increases and evolves digital strategies worldwide. Of particular exposure to emerging risks are organisations that use cloud services or solutions connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). As organisations digitalise more processes and data, the number of potential security gaps is surging, increasing the risk of damaging data breaches.

If the full benefits of developments such as cloud services and IoT are to be realised, digital data must be protected at all times – but most security strategies and policies are no longer fit for purpose, being traditionally ad hoc and limited point solutions. In this age, information security must become a key strategic priority if organisations are to have any hope of mitigating the risks of digitalisation while enjoying the benefits.

Cyber security has become a much-discussed topic in recent years, and the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has only served to heighten the conversation. So why are so many organisations embracing the future of digitalisation while their security strategies are stuck in the past?

Ease of use 

As we have all seen in the wake of GDPR, there is a tendency to associate heightened cyber security and data protection measures with a worsening user experience. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. When security is an integral part of a business strategy, and not incorporated as an afterthought, there is time to formulate the easiest and most effective processes for employees to follow. Building security into your strategy should also mean it is adaptable to new and emerging technologies.

Once thought to be squarely an IT concern, with the advent of data protection laws and greater digitalisation across organisations, security is now a cross-departmental issue and should be something the board regularly reviews.

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

The speed of digital transformation

Often the thought of bolstering security practices seems antithetical to the pace of digital transformation. Updated security measures are associated with regulations, best practice processes, training and awareness. These associations can make security seem like a hindrance, rather than an aid to achieving digital transformation.

The truth is that on the contrary, security is moving to the forefront of digital innovation. When built into new technologies and devices from the outset, security enables wider, secure and more seamless access to data in the IoT.

The landscape of digital technologies 

As the Internet of Things becomes flooded with newer and faster digital technologies the breadth of “things” available can seem incompatible with a comprehensive digital strategy. As with most strategies data is key. Gathering, synthesising and analysing security data from across the landscape will keep organisations alert to risks and allow the development of an adaptable strategy to protect against these risks.

Developing effective security requires strategy and, most importantly, must be prioritised in a time of such rapid digital change. While there is no set template for such a solution, investing time and money in the process is a good way to start. Depending on the requirements of a specific company, an effective security strategy will look at integrating different technologies, the handling and protection of data, and organisation-wide training in best practice processes to minimise risks, regularly.

Business security strategies must keep pace with the speed of their digital transformation programmes. This means carrying out data audits at regular intervals, and reviewing policies to check that they remain fit for purpose. Security systems must be up to date – particularly encryption and authentication technologies –, tested regularly, and adjusted to defend against evolving cyber threats.

The most important aspect of a successful security strategy however is consistency. Build security into your organisation’s digital strategy from the beginning, make sure it is observed across the board, and you have the best chance of being protected against new and emerging security risks in the digital age.

Satisfy unrelenting demands for fast, reliable Wi-Fi

Keith Cahoon

By Keith Cahoon, Business Development Director UK, Mist Systems

The demand for fast, predictable and reliable Wi-Fi continues to increase with our expanding reliance on access through ‘Bring Your Own Devices’ for work and personal use and demand for access to Wi-Fi provided by employers, education establishments and in other areas such as hospitals, conference centres and cultural venues.

However, it has been hard to satisfy this demand and to provide a consistently good experience across iPads, Chromebooks, Smartphones and other devices. US-company Mist Systems has arrived in the UK to address this challenge.  By leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the cloud, Mist makes wireless more predictable, reliable and measurable, and adds more value to the wireless network via scalable location services that personalise the mobile experience.

With the Mist Learning WLAN, time-consuming manual IT tasks are replaced with AI-driven proactive automation and self-healing, lowering Wi-Fi operational costs and saving substantial time and money.  For example, automated event correlation is used to identify the root cause of problems quickly.  Dynamic packet capture (dPCAP) is used to eliminate truck rolls for troubleshooting.  Plus, an AI-driven assistant enables IT administrators to get complex answers using simple questions, like “What was wrong with Bob’s Wi-Fi last Tuesday?”

Mist also brings enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, Bluetooth® LE and IoT together so businesses can increase the value of their wireless networks through personalised location services, such as wayfinding, proximity notifications, and asset location. With Mist’s patented virtual BLE (vBLE) technology, no battery beacons or manual calibration are required.

All operations are managed via Mist’s open and programmable microservices cloud architecture. This delivers maximum scalability and performance while also bringing DevOps agility to wireless networking and location services.

Companies throughout the world are switching to an AI-driven WLAN in the cloud for multiple reasons.  First, they want more agility and scalability that cannot be provided with traditional on-premises solutions.  Second, they want more assurance for business-critical applications, with visibility into the user experience.  Third, they want to increase the value of the wireless network with location-based services that enhance the experience for wireless guests, employees, and customers. 

Below are some qualifying questions to determine if the move to an AI-driven WLAN is for you:

  • We have an aging wireless infrastructure and it requires a lot of time investment from IT staff
  • We only have a small IT team and they’re already very stretched, we’d like to reduce Wi-FI demands on the IT team
  • Demand on our wireless infrastructure is growing daily and our current set-up just won’t keep up
  • We seem to be constantly firefighting and troubleshooting wireless problems
  • We can’t map wireless usage to identify demand from groups of users, locations or even days or times of day
  • We rely heavily on video calls and streaming and we can’t get the speed or reliability we need
  • We want to move to a wireless infrastructure that can cope with demands today but also those of the future.

Example: using Mist for office environments

ThoughtWorks is a privately owned, global technology company with 42 offices in 15 countries and an IT department based in London. It provides software design and delivery, and pioneering tools and consulting services.

“We are a Wi-Fi first company,” said Kevin Fenn, global head of networks at ThoughtWorks. “Most offices are open seating, with little or no fixed desks, nor wired connectivity. This means the WLAN always has to work consistently, reliably, and with the highest performance.”

In addition, the company hosts many partners and clients in their offices who require simple and reliable access to ThoughtWorks’ guest Wi-Fi network.

Finally, ThoughtWorks’ employees are heavy users of video communications. There are approximately 45,000 video calls made per day globally across the company, which is about 7 calls per person on a typical day. These video calls have to work consistently and reliably, as the company’s business depends on it.

Example: using Mist in education

Guilford College is a premier liberal arts school located in Greensborough, North Carolina.  In 2017, the school was ready to upgrade its five-year-old Cisco Wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure.

“Our primary goal was to provide reliable and measurable Wi-Fi coverage in classrooms, residential buildings, and the student union,” said Chuck Curry, director – information technology and services at Guilford. “However, because we only have two full time networking people, ease of operations and automation was also paramount.”

Guilford evaluated several options to streamline and improve its wireless services, eventually landing on Mist Systems. According to Curry, “The Mist technology is the most modern cloud platform on the market, providing unique visibility into the user experience and automation of day-to-day troubleshooting and operations.”

The college is using the new AI-driven WLAN to:

  • Guarantee students’ access to online content in classrooms with Wi-Fi service levels
  • Enable easy guest Wi-Fi via captive portal with SMS sign-in
  • Securely share personal devices in dorm rooms and common areas, like AppleTVs and Chromecasts
  • Enable easy troubleshooting by helpdesk using AI-driven virtual assistant
  • Provide analytics on mobile-user behaviour to optimise resources across campus, such as security guards and study areas.

Meet us

Visit our stand at ONUG London and find out why industry analyst Gartner has ranked Mist as a “Visionary” for the second year in a row in its “Gartner 2018 Magic Quadrants for Wired & Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure and Indoor Location Services” (download the reports here: www.mist.com/gartner-mq-mist-visionary/).

  • ONUG London – 7th December

    The event covers issues such as IT strategies for digital transformation; the future of cloud computing and enterprise-level applications; the evolution in technology infrastructure.  Find out more and book your place: www.onug.net/events/london-2018/

Contact us: Website: www.mist.com/

Tel: 02032 395170

Email: keith.cahoon@mistsys.com

Five Ways Local Authorities Can Integrate Live Chat Into Digital Transformation

For GPSJ by Graham Jarvis – Freelance Business and Technology Journalist

Graham Jarvis

Gemma Baker

In June 2018 Salford City Council won the Digital Council of the Year and the overall Digital Leader accolades at the prestigious DL100 Awards ceremony during Digital Leaders week. The latter award was drawn from the winners of all of the categories. Steven Fry, Head of Customer and Digital Services, Salford City Council, says this makes the city council the “best of the best.”

He says it was an amazing feeling to hear Salford City Council’s name being announced as the winner at the event, describing it as testimony to the hard work the council had put in. He adds: “Our live chat facility featured in the submission as evidence of how we are providing customer services in a way that our residents want.  Our call handlers can respond to 4 enquiries via live chat at any one time compared to just one via the phone.”

Gemma Baker, Marketing Executive at live chat solutions provider Click4Asssistance, explains how the seeds of success were sown. She says that Salford City Council approached her firm to help the council to streamline resourcing and to support the council’s constituent customers. The council approached her organisation during the winter of 2015, and after discussions about everything from live chat capabilities and strategy, Salford’s live chat implementation began in April 2016.

“Having a reliable live chat solution, that is user-friendly, helps place representatives in a position where they can fully concentrate on the service they provide Salford City’s residents”, she claims before adding it means that the council can focus on what its citizens expect and require – a “fast and accurate response” to their enquiries. She elaborates: “It also aids managers overseeing the communication channel, to focus on their operators’ performance and make improvements to their skills rather than being distracted by a solution that isn’t working to their expectations.”

Digital transformation

Beyond this, live chat and chatbots are part of the U.K. government and public sector’s digital transformation agenda. So, there are a number of emergent trends to consider. From Fry’s perspective, the first is about the fact that the public sector is embracing what he calls “true digital customer service design”. Hot on its heels is the creation for ‘true omnichannel services’, and the third trend that he sees is the use of smart data, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“I think the public sector were a quite a way behind the private sector in terms of end-to-end service design properly until recently, we at Salford believe service design should cover all channels from digital to face-to-face”, he reveals.

Steven Fry, Head of Customer and Digital Services, Salford City Council

This may be why he finds that live chat and chatbots are being cautiously introduced to the public sector. However, Fry considers live chat to be a great addition to his council’s customer service options: “We have carried out a lot of analysis around digital capabilities within the city to make sure that technologies such as live chat would be utilised, and around 85% of our citizens in Salford are digitally capable, hence the reason we implemented it.” In addition to this, he stresses that the council runs a digital first strategy – from end-to-end service design to face-to-face contact and telephony. The aim of this approach is to ensure that the council can cater for everyone living within the city.

Baker adds: “The government has set out a strategy to have local authorities digitally transformed by 2020. With the pressure on to achieve this, budget restraints also need to be taken into account. Therefore, live chat becomes one of the methods that councils can implement to enable them to satisfactorily support their residents, whilst decreasing staff resources and not spending a fortune. In fact, most councils using Click4Assistance have implemented live chat for less than £5000 per annum, and so there is no need for the tender process to procure this communications channel.”

Chabot enhancement 

As for chatbots, Fry comments: “We’re interested to see chatbots being used elsewhere as this could be a potential enhancement to the digital experience, allowing easy, tailored access to services on a 24-hour basis. The likely uses would be to help manage demand so that we can free up staff time to spend with residents who need more support.”

Click4Assistance Mobile

“There are a few councils already taking a look into the technology but not many have actually implemented it”, says Baker before commenting: “I reckon we will see this increase as AI can allow councils to dramatically reduce their contact centres and focus resource on customers who would prefer face-2-face contact,  as you would only need a few operators on hand to takes chats, should they be requested by the resident or the bot cannot supply an answer.”

Role for Artificial Intelligence

Fry believes that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will play a big role in government and public sector contact centres over the next few years. He thinks this will specifically be about tailoring the user experience and the user journeys:

Overall Winner – Salford Council

“It will help to design and enable true public sector reform by understanding user needs, what services people with the city want to access, and to provide early insight for prevention and early intervention. This goes across health, social care, and debt, most of the wider determinants of health. What we are certain of is that whichever solutions we use intelligence-based workflow will be one of the biggest impacts for the organisation.” 

Talking about Salford City Council’s plan for using AI and ML in customer services, he explains that its teams are at the point of refreshing its digital strategy for the next 3 years. The purpose of this agenda is to consider how the council can best provide its services and link those aspirations with the relevant technology.  Having said that, he comments: “We can see that AI and ML would allow for differentiated approaches to delivering customer services. This is about getting the right information and to support people within the city.”

People before technology

After all the council has a saying that “It’s not about the technology; or the project management style, it’s about the people who use the it.” For this reason one of the authority’s digital transformation programmes is called the ‘Digital You programme’, which he explains is about “skilling up 8,000 residents in the city who don’t have the 5 basic digital skills”. To achieve this goal, the council is working with the Good Things Foundation to create “a real movement for change in the city.”

Speaking again about why Salford City Council won its awards, he discloses: “Another key part of our submission was to describe how we are racing to become one of the world’s most attractive cities for digital enterprise.” Fry says a City Chief Digital Officer has been appointed and a Digital Collaborative have been created to help it to achieve this ambition. The Digital Collaborative consists of Salford City Council, the Salford Royal Foundation Trust, Salford University and MediaCityUK.

He explains why this is important: “The whole ethos of the collaborative approach is around creating a single front door for inward investment in digital within the city and improving the opportunities and lives for the people who live in Salford. A recent announcement that Vodafone has set up a 5G test-bed in MediaCity UK. So, in summary, winning the award was about the city council’s holistic approach to digital.”

Top 5 integration tips

So, what are his five best practice ways to integrate live chat and chatbots into digital transformation programmes?  In response to this question, he offers the following tips: 

  1. Ensure that you have the right strategy – make sure your digital service design is right;
  2. Properly research your customer base in terms of digital capability and appetite;
  3. Bring live and chatbots in when the customer is ready, and build it into your digital design;
  4. Co-design the solution with those who will be delivering the service, as well as those who will be using it.
  5. Upskill the workforce in live chat and social media by having a workforce development plan.

Baker also adds her advice, she says: “Look at areas of the council people are getting most frustrated with; struggling to complete a certain type of form, or as council tax is a very popular section there can be lengthy waits to speak with someone from that team etc. These are then the primary areas that need to have live chat added so representatives can better support residents. (It’s better to have chat across the website but if only a few departments can have it then prioritise these first.)”

She concludes by saying that council must have a strategy in place to understand fully who will be managing live chat, the timescales involved in implementing it, customising it, and training etc. It’s also an imperative to consider who the representatives handing the live chat will be: will it be handled by a chatbot or by a human being? There may some enquiries that are just perfect for a chatbot to answer, but there will be others that may require the empathetic human touch of a good customer services advisor. So, consider the purpose of the communications channel because once you’ve got a strategy in place, your Government department or council can work on being as successful as Salford.

For more information please visit: www.click4assistance.co.uk

Tackling the UK Government’s identity crisis

David Orme, SVP at IDEX Biometrics

The UK Government influences our lives on a daily basis through its plethora of public services, from the NHS and education to social benefits and national security. However, a re-occurring obstacle that presents a challenge for accessing these services is proving identity. There are also high instances of healthcare and social benefit fraud where effectively proving identity is an ongoing issue. For these public services public services to be fully optimised, it is paramount to have the correct measures of identification in place to ensure that the correct people receive the services they need. Put simply, without an effective means of identification, the UK Government is massively at risk of being unable to maintain control of how its resources are deployed throughout the country.

Amidst this national proof of identity crisis, it should come as a great relief that we are currently on the cusp of a new era of biometric identification. With biometric authentication technology already being used in smartphones and passport identification in the UK, we can expect to see the world moving towards using biometrics as a means of identification in more areas of our everyday lives. In the face of such advancements, the UK must ensure that it does not fall behind the curve.

The Government highlighted its intentions on 28th June [1] early this year in a much-anticipated proposal outlining how it would adopt an increased use of biometric information in everyday public services, however many have raised concerns that it doesn’t go far enough. The Government must capitalise on biometric developments by incorporating methods such as fingerprint authentication into national identification cards to ensure a far more robust and secure process of identification. This form of identification would be used to access everyday public services, similar to card payment authentication processes, and greatly assist in running them more effectively.

Despite the proposal representing a step in the right direction, for many, it’s lack of strategy was highly concerning, and it suggests that the Government is wholly unprepared for this next step of innovation. To fully embrace biometric technology as a nation, it is clear that more needs to be done to both address the role it will play in public services and to create greater awareness amongst the general population.

No time for confusion 

With only 14 pages specifically dedicated to explaining the Home Office’s plans for the increased use of biometric information in everyday public services, there were vast criticisms that it did not go far enough to discuss the actual legislation that will be implemented. For example, Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo complained that “the Home Office appears to lack either the will or competence to take the issues seriously – for a government that is building some of the biggest biometric databases in the world, this is alarming.”[1]

This was echoed by Paul Wiles, the UK’s biometric commissioner, who was frustrated by the proposals lack of clear strategy, “it is disappointing that the Home Office document is not forward looking as one would expect from a strategy – it does not propose legislation to provide rules for the use and oversight of new biometrics, including facial images.”[2]

With the Government seemingly unable to determine the best way to integrate this technology, it is clear that more needs to be done to consider how best to ensure a smooth transition for public adoption. This will in turn improve the process for when this technology is eventually incorporated into our lives.

Realising the power of biometric technology

 So what role should biometric authentication technology play in the future of the UK’s public services? Well firstly, with fingerprint recognition technology, it is no longer simply what you know but instead, who you are that will prove identify. By linking people to a card through their fingerprints, it is a far more secure means of authentication that will limit potential fraud and criminality.

Biometric authentication can be implemented across a wide-range of public services including the NHS, national security, as well as in schools and universities. For example, the addition of biometric authentication to national identity cards will ensure the right people receive the right help.  National security will no longer just rely on paper passport identification, but also fingerprint methods of biometric authentication to more accurately prove a person’s identity.

Think too of social benefits cards. Using fingerprint methods of authentication linked to national identification, the Government could better ensure welfare is accessed by the right person and that vulnerable individuals aren’t victim to welfare fraud. Such methods could also be used as a means of age verification for the purchase of alcohol or other age-limited products and could also extend to effective means of registration in schools and universities, enabling staff to keep better track of student’s attendance – and as a clear deterrent for absentees!

Avoiding a ‘big brother’ regime 

Before this change can be implemented on a grand scale, it is paramount to consider the extent to which the general population is comfortable sharing more personal data with the Government. Whilst this is yet to be determined, one thing that is certain is that the key to the success of biometric authentication in Government ID lies in striking the balance between privacy and convenience. After all, following various high-profile data breaches and suspicions of Government infringements, we live in a society that is becoming increasingly sceptical about sharing personal information.

Whether consumers realise it or not, facial recognition has long been used as a method of authentication to prove identity, whether through surveillance to monitor for criminal activity or through UK border control at airports, which we as a nation have become accustomed to. The use of biometrics has also broken into the consumer tech market, with smart phones using fingerprint and iris recognition in place of passwords, which have become broadly accepted. However, there are regular debates around the superiority of fingerprint-recognition versus its biometric counterparts, such as facial and iris recognition.

The reality is facial-recognition relies on external databases to store and compare data, whereas fingerprint-recognition only requires the user’s information to be stored on the card itself, removing the attractiveness for cyber criminals on the lookout for a central database of fingerprint data. Fingerprints are also far less prone to change than facial features and irises that could be duped via contact lenses, so it is a more accurate form of authentication.

The biometric revolution is not a distant fantasy, but a very pressing reality, so it is essential that the Government acts fast to establish how the technology can be implemented and utilised properly. This can only be achieved through stringent legislation to support adoption and greater understanding.

[1] www.theregister.co.uk/2018/06/29/uk_biometrics_strategy/

[2] tech.newstatesman.com/policy/home-office-biometrics-strategy-2

Armour Comms and Global RadioData Communications partner to provide 24/7 support for Armour Mobile solution

Dave Holman

Now available via the Government UK Digital marketplace G-Cloud

Armour Communications, a leading provider of specialist, secure communications solutions, has partnered with Global RadioData Communications (GRC) to provide a joint solution with 24/7 support. GRC has already secured its first two customers for the new combined solution that provides additional levels of security. The new service is available via the UK Government Digital Marketplace G-Cloud 10, under the cloud hosting, software and support framework listed as SCYTALE Armour Comms.

Subscribers to the GRC solution will be able to communicate with other white listed communities, typically, enabling different government departments to communicate securely using Armour Mobile. The service covers all Armour Mobile standard functionality, which includes voice calls, one-to-one and group messaging, voice and video conference calls, file attachments, sent/received/read message status, and Message Burn, a facility where the sender can set a message to disappear after a certain time (for example 5 minutes after it has been sent, or 10 minutes after it has been read by the recipient).

Steve Slater, Operations Director at GRC commented; “Armour Mobile provides the broadest range of secure communications features currently available for use on an ordinary smartphone, providing security that is transparent to the end user, something that is increasingly important to our user base.  Services that provide a consumer-grade look and feel with higher levels of assurance combined with the convenience of using the phone the user already has, means that making and receiving a secure call or communication does not disrupt normal working patterns, helping to ensure user adoption.”

MessageBurn

David Holman, a Director at Armour Comms stated; “GRC is our first partner to provide a 24/7 support service from its HQ. Increasingly, clients are demanding higher levels of assurance and support, and we are delighted to be working with GRC to meet this requirement.

Using a FIPS 140-2 validated crypto core, Armour Mobile has been awarded many certifications including Commercial Product Assurance (CPA) from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and is included in the NATO Information Assurance catalogue.

Comment on National University of Ireland data breach to GPSJ

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

In light of the news that the National University of Ireland (NUIG) has lost a USB containing student details, Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn has provided comment to GPSJ.

Jon told GPSJ: “This breach is yet another example of user error and the risks of not encrypting sensitive data. Whilst the number affected does not reach the thousands we have seen in breaches of late, the end result is ultimately the same – sensitive information has been lost and could very easily land in unscrupulous hands.

The university claims to have ‘strict policies in place relating to the use of portable devices, in addition to a staff data protection training programme and online security training’, but the most effective method would have been to identify a standard hardware encrypted USB for data protection, to ensure that if, such as in this case, the device is lost or stolen, the contents remain obscured and inaccessible. Its use should be enforced by locking USB ports to only accept that device. This then removes the risk that data could be downloaded to unencrypted portable media. The cost of defence is much lower than the cost of a breach, particularly in the wake of new GDPR legislation.”

2018 Budget: GPSJ readers send us their comments

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Government & Public Sector Journal readers have sent us their comments on today’s budget:

Ben Jackson, CEO of early payment provider, Oxygen Finance, said:

“Today was a missed opportunity for the Chancellor to deliver on his Spring Statement pledge to stamp out late payment. All we’ve had since then is further consultation on the issue, but no decisive action.

“While further legislation isn’t the answer to this deep-rooted problem, there is a case for strengthening existing measures. In practice, this would mean immediate financial consequences for businesses who pay late. The existing rules see late payers merely reporting on the extent to which they pay late, with the onus on suppliers – who will be reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them – to trigger any financial penalty.

“Cashflow is the lifeblood of any business and without the certainty of regular, timely payments businesses cannot put their growth plans into action, which, at best, leaves them operating in a short-term fashion and at worst puts their very survival in jeopardy. While the Budget did include business-friendly measures, they mean very little when firms still aren’t being paid on time for the goods and services they provide.”

Responding to today’s Budget, Richard Murray, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:

“The social care system cannot continue to get by on last-minute, piecemeal funding announcements. Adult social care in England needs at least £1.5 billion more per year simply to cope with demand meaning that the funding announced today, which will also need to cover children’s social care, falls far short. This highlights the need for a long-term plan for how social care will be funded and structured so that it can meet increasing demand. Successive Governments have dodged tough decisions on social care and the forthcoming Green Paper must now ensure social care gets the long-term plan it so desperately needs.

“Two billion pounds for mental health confirms the early signals that this would be a key priority for the forthcoming NHS long-term plan. But years of underfunding have taken their toll and this is no more than a small step on the road to parity of esteem. Mental health services need more than money to meet demand. A chronic shortage of mental health staff means that, despite the new funding, the service won’t improve until the Government and the NHS provide a plan to increase the workforce.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham told GPSJ:

“Today’s Budget had a number of welcome steps but Greater Manchester will need more from the Chancellor in the upcoming spending review if we are to face up to the big post-Brexit challenges.

“The skills funding package for Greater Manchester that’s been announced today is welcome but should only be another step on the journey towards full devolution of post-16 education.

“The nearly £70 million of additional investment in transport from the Transforming Cities Fund in 2022-23 is also positive but I know people in Greater Manchester wanted to hear more from the Chancellor on the chaos that’s affecting commuters and harming the Northern economy now.   Greater Manchester needs similar powers to London if we are to fix our roads and railways.  That’s why I’m calling on people across Greater Manchester to join our campaign to Take Control of our Transport at takecontrolofourtransport.co.uk.

“I also hope that the Government’s decision to refresh its Northern Powerhouse Strategy next year is a recognition of what Northern Leaders have been saying to Ministers over recent years.  The promises made to the North need to be delivered and the Northern Powerhouse urgently needs new momentum.

“On the vital issue of social care, any new funding for social care is welcome and critically needed, but the Chancellor’s announcement doesn’t address the scale of social care underfunding. Rather than sticking plasters, we need a long-term settlement for social care to ensure older and disabled people get the care they need.”

Glen Garrod, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said:

“It would seem that that era of austerity is indeed not at an end for older and disabled people.

“The detail in the Red Book reveals that the announced funding of £650 million for social care is in fact a core of £410 million which will need to be negotiated in local Councils between children and adult services – both of which are hard pressed. Whilst this additional funding is indeed positive, it is both inadequate and temporary. There is also £240m in 2019/20 to continue the winter pressures funding that supports the NHS.

“The detail in the budget creates an invidious situation affecting older and disabled people locally.  Their needs will be competing with those of different Council departments, projected overspends, dwindling or exhausted reserves, supporting NHS needs and the needs of children and young people.

“It is however, welcome, that more money for the Disabilities Funding Grant is available, which is £10 million more than the Chancellor announced in his speech. It is positive the Government is making  more money available for social care overall. We must have a long-term funding solutions for adult social care and the Government must bring these forward in the green paper urgently.”

Ben Jackson, CEO of early payment provider, Oxygen Finance, said:

“Today was a missed opportunity for the Chancellor to deliver on his Spring Statement pledge to stamp out late payment. All we’ve had since then is further consultation on the issue, but no decisive action.

“While further legislation isn’t the answer to this deep-rooted problem, there is a case for strengthening existing measures. In practice, this would mean immediate financial consequences for businesses who pay late. The existing rules see late payers merely reporting on the extent to which they pay late, with the onus on suppliers – who will be reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them – to trigger any financial penalty.

“Cashflow is the lifeblood of any business and without the certainty of regular, timely payments businesses cannot put their growth plans into action, which, at best, leaves them operating in a short-term fashion and at worst puts their very survival in jeopardy. While the Budget did include business-friendly measures, they mean very little when firms still aren’t being paid on time for the goods and services they provide.”

Peter Hogg, UK Cities Director, said:

“The Chancellor was keen to share the love around the UK in today’s budget. Whilst he may have come to bury one of his predecessor’s pet policy initiatives – austerity, he went out of his way to praise the other – devolution. No part of the Union was denied Mr Hammond’s generosity, with devo deals for Tayside, Belfast and Mid Wales, whilst Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Oxford-Cambridge rail link and the devolved authorities all got additional funding or extended funding windows. This, linked to pledges on the Transforming Cities Fund, Future Mobility Zones, infrastructure, health, schools and defence, adds up to a very regionally focused budget.

“This is good news for the UK’s overall competitiveness at a critical time and will helpfully encourage confidence and investability. It is also reassuring to see the Chancellor recognise the need to enable growth in our cities and the corridors that connect them. It is disappointing – if understandable – to see limited funding for London. The HIF funding (Housing Infrastructure Fund) of the DLR extension and inclusion of Lower Thames Crossing in the Roads Investment Strategy 2 settlement are welcome, but it feels like a missed opportunity to see nothing on Crossrail 2, The Bakerloo Line Extension or indeed the regeneration of Thames Gateway.” 

Simon Rawlinson, Head of Strategic Research and Insight, said:

“The end to the use of the PFI for social and economic infrastructure is good politics as no deal has been signed since 2016.  However, finding the finance to plug the gaps left by the EIB – which the budget does not address – along with public sector expertise to deliver publicly funded programmes, may prove to be longer-term liabilities. Meanwhile, given the raft of announcements in connection with future capital expenditure on housing, roads and the high street, the lack of an announcement on the progress of the construction sector deal points to the need for greater coordination between Government Departments.”

Will Waller, Head of Market Intelligence, said:

“Noticeable by its absence in Hammond’s speech was any mention of the ‘Help to Buy’ Equity Loan Scheme.  But the housebuilding community won’t be disappointed.  The red book heralds a new Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme that will run from April 2021 for 2 years to the tune of almost £9bn.  Even better, it also won’t be contingent on any site-specifics or new planning policy. This is a huge win for housebuilders in minimising uncertainty, particularly crucial as an average of 40% of revenue of the top ten house builders is supported by the scheme and it has played a huge part in driving profitability in an increasingly challenging market.  Equally, it will allow more first time buyers to get on the ladder. That said, whilst this policy will provide renewed comfort and opportunity, the red book makes it clear that March 2023 will be the definite end to the scheme.  The big house builders will need to invest  in evolving business and delivery models.”

Natalie Sauber, Market Intelligence Lead for Manufacturing & Technology, said:

“The Chancellor’s cash injection of £90 million to create future mobility zones is a positive move. Smart transport solutions present a huge opportunity to radically transform how we live, work and travel. It is reassuring to see the Government take another important step in its campaign to embrace the next generation of citizen driven mobility. Now is the time for local authorities and transport bodies to get ahead of the game.”

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA), said: 

“We were disappointed that the Budget did not confirm a commitment to introducing universal food waste collections in England or any further funding support to encourage local authorities to introduce these where they haven’t already done so. 

 “We strongly urge the Treasury, BEIS and DEFRA to ensure the forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy includes these measures to help end the scandal of valuable organic materials being wasted in incineration or landfill – meeting our Carbon Budgets depends on it. As highlighted by the Committee on Climate Change, we also need urgent action on replacement for the Renewable Heat Incentive by the end of the year to ensure that generation of renewable heat continues to receive government support. 

“ADBA welcomes the confirmation that Ministers will maintain the difference between alternative and main road fuel duty rates until 2032 to support the decarbonisation of the UK transport sector – this recognises the valuable role that clean fuels such as biomethane need to play.” 

In its Budget Submission, ADBA set out the case for rollout of universal food waste collections in England to replicate the improvement in food waste recycling rates seen in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as the result of a similar policy. As well as helping to divert food waste away from environmentally damaging landfill or incineration, the National Infrastructure Commission has estimated that introducing universal food waste collections in England would save local authorities up to £400 million in capital costs and £1.1 billion in operational costs between 2020 and 2050.

The Budget states that if current policy fails to reduce the amount of waste going to incineration and landfill ahead of recycling, the Government is prepared to introduce a higher tax on incineration, though it declined to set out a firm timetable for this.

ADBA will continue to strongly push for support for universal separate food waste collections in the forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy, and will continue to make detailed representations to the relevant Departments.

Responding to Budget 2018, Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, told GPSJ:

“Today’s Budget shows the Government has started to listen to the LGA’s call for desperately-needed investment in our under-pressure local services, but falls short of what we need in the long-term. Councils were at the front of the queue when austerity started so local services should be at the front of the queue if it is coming to an end.

“The LGA’s Budget submission highlighted the severe funding pressures facing councils in 2019/20. The Chancellor has acted to help tackle some of this immediate funding crisis with £650 million for social care which provides a financial boost for some of our local public services.

“While this funding will ease some of the immediate financial pressure facing councils and our local services, it is clear that this cannot be a one-off. Today’s funding is a start, but the real test will come in the Spending Review next year.

“Local government in England continues to face significant funding gaps and rising demand for adult social care, children’s services and homelessness support will continue to threaten other services our communities rely on, like running libraries, cleaning streets and maintaining park spaces. Councils also continue to face huge uncertainty about how they will pay for local services into the next decade and beyond.

“Investing in local government is good for the nation’s prosperity, economic growth and the overall health and wellbeing of the nation. We now look forward to working with the Government to ensure the forthcoming Spending Review delivers a truly sustainable funding settlement for local government, and its adult social care Green Paper puts social care on a firmer, long-term financial footing for the people who depend on care and support.”

Commenting on the Budget, Dan Burke, public sector strategy partner at PwC, said:

“Public service leaders will be pleased to receive extra short term cash to cover major pressures in areas such as social care, universal credit, roads, housing and defence. But all the big decisions will have to wait until next year’s Spending Review.

“The end to austerity in public spending will depend on a Brexit ‘deal dividend’ that the Chancellor hopes we will be enjoying by next Spring.

“Whatever happens, it’s clear that the long term future for public services depends on finding new ways to deliver them, using the new technology that is already driving innovation in the rest of the economy.”

Adam Lent, the Director of the New Local Government Network (NLGN) thinktank told GPSJ:

“Local public services have endured more cuts than any other part of the public sector over the last eight years. This has thrust councils into a growing financial crisis. The Chancellor’s long list of one off and relatively small cash boosts are welcome but are really nothing more than sticking plasters. If austerity is genuinely to end then councils need a long-term settlement that delivers financial sustainability. Councils will now look to the Spending Review next year for this but given the Chancellor’s modest prediction for spending growth, they will look forward more in hope than expectation.”

Digitalisation: Businesses must mitigate against new, invisible risks

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn

By Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA Apricorn 

Digital transformation is happening everywhere at breakneck speed. Each year brings a new development or a new technology that increases and evolves digital strategies worldwide. Of particular exposure to emerging risks are organisations that use cloud services or solutions connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). As organisations digitalise more processes and data, the number of potential security gaps is surging, increasing the risk of damaging data breaches.

If the full benefits of developments such as cloud services and IoT are to be realised, digital data must be protected at all times – but most security strategies and policies are no longer fit for purpose, being traditionally ad hoc and limited point solutions. In this age, information security must become a key strategic priority if organisations are to have any hope of mitigating the risks of digitalisation while enjoying the benefits.

Cyber security has become a much-discussed topic in recent years, and the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has only served to heighten the conversation. So why are so many organisations embracing the future of digitalisation while their security strategies are stuck in the past?

Ease of use 

As we have all seen in the wake of GDPR, there is a tendency to associate heightened cyber security and data protection measures with a worsening user experience. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. When security is an integral part of a business strategy, and not incorporated as an afterthought, there is time to formulate the easiest and most effective processes for employees to follow. Building security into your strategy should also mean it is adaptable to new and emerging technologies.

Once thought to be squarely an IT concern, with the advent of data protection laws and greater digitalisation across organisations, security is now a cross-departmental issue and should be something the board regularly reviews.

The speed of digital transformation

Often the thought of bolstering security practices seems antithetical to the pace of digital transformation. Updated security measures are associated with regulations, best practice processes, training and awareness. These associations can make security seem like a hindrance, rather than an aid to achieving digital transformation.

The truth is that on the contrary, security is moving to the forefront of digital innovation. When built into new technologies and devices from the outset, security enables wider, secure and more seamless access to data in the IoT.

The landscape of digital technologies 

As the Internet of Things becomes flooded with newer and faster digital technologies the breadth of “things” available can seem incompatible with a comprehensive digital strategy. As with most strategies data is key. Gathering, synthesising and analysing security data from across the landscape will keep organisations alert to risks and allow the development of an adaptable strategy to protect against these risks.

Developing effective security requires strategy and, most importantly, must be prioritised in a time of such rapid digital change. While there is no set template for such a solution, investing time and money in the process is a good way to start. Depending on the requirements of a specific company, an effective security strategy will look at integrating different technologies, the handling and protection of data, and organisation-wide training in best practice processes to minimise risks, regularly.

Business security strategies must keep pace with the speed of their digital transformation programmes. This means carrying out data audits at regular intervals, and reviewing policies to check that they remain fit for purpose. Security systems must be up to date – particularly encryption and authentication technologies –, tested regularly, and adjusted to defend against evolving cyber threats.

The most important aspect of a successful security strategy however is consistency. Build security into your organisation’s digital strategy from the beginning, make sure it is observed across the board, and you have the best chance of being protected against new and emerging security risks in the digital age.

GDPR – THE FATIGUE, THE FEAR AND THE ROBOTS

Many of us are suffering from GDPR fatigue. All articles, news reports, internal meetings are essentially repeating the ICO’s main principals and broad steps needed to become compliant. The word journey is also banded about, suggesting if steps are being taken, and can be proved, you’ll avoid the hefty fines which now act as the GDPR stick.

However, three months on GDPR is slowly starting to feel like something real, rather than something hypothetical found in a business text book.

Within the first month of GDPR, the ICO received 1,124 complaints about data breaches. Mainly from individuals, but sometimes from organisations proactively informing the ICO of breaches. This was a sharp increase from previous years, but it appears not a knee jerk reaction that was to abate. Now the ICO has released data from the first three months, and it has received 6,281 complaints. This averages around 2,500 complaints a month for months two and three.

If you then compare to 2017, the ICO only received 2,417 in total over the same three-month period, a 300% increase. Clearly, individuals are not only aware they have rights now but feel empowered to do something about it.

So, has everyone in the UK read the GDPR policy and do they know when to complain?

I highly doubt it, but data breeches are news headlines, and not only that they are high profile. So, while the nuances might still be a problem, stories such as Facebook/Cambridge Analytica are well known, and without knowing all the details can provide individuals with a general sense of personal data ownership and rights, and a confidence that companies can be held to account.

Without a doubt the number of organisations that approach Restore with requirements that stem from GDPR concerns has risen sharply, especially over the last two months. And this isn’t just organisations that are worried about how they hold customer data, but increasingly HR teams worried about their employee data.

What is worrying organisations the most? Where are their weak points?

 From our internal research a lot of organisations are worried about what they call dark boxes of data – ie stored boxes whose contents are unknown; and the amount of archive paper data. This paper data is hard to categorise and know quickly and simply what you hold on an individual. As data becomes increasingly digital, individuals can have some data on paper and some stored electronically.

This makes organisations uncomfortable that they can quickly reply to SAR requests, and most importantly keep up to date with retention periods.

What are retention periods and why are they important? 

With the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal we learnt about data harvesting, where individuals hand over data believing it’s just for one thing, eg an innocent game/quiz on Facebook. However, that information might be sold on, along with other information Facebook harvests or, the game itself might be created by a data company like Cambridge Analytica which wants to use that data for other commercial uses. Basically, a sense of tricking the individual.

T-Mobile is another organisation who seems to be constantly in the news with data breeches. Their issues are around data security and unauthorized data access.

However, data breeches aren’t just these high-profile examples, that most companies have high up on their risk agenda. Not adhering to retention periods are still classed as data breeches.

When you hold individuals’ information, each type of information has a retention period – this is how long you must keep the information on file, and then a time when it must be deleted, and you are no longer allowed to hold that information.

And for HR Teams this isn’t as straight forward as after X years delete all data held on a previous employee. Each type of information has different retention periods, so information about maternity will have a different retention period to next of kin/emergency contact details, to contract signed, to pension information. And this is when paper records make conforming to GDPR difficult, time consuming and manual.

Robots to the rescue

GDPR in a nutshell is about safe, secure, accurate information not kept longer than necessary. If you digitise, you can automate, and if you automate you can let robots keep you GDPR compliant.

A good records management system allows you to set permissions and rules for each bit of data, giving internal colleagues different access to information contained within one database.

A good database with robotics sat within it, can automatically remove data into recycle bins, ready for you to check and delete, once certain rules like retention period are met.

And if you get AI involved, you can link data held in different databases on the same individual, so updates are replicated. AI can also pull information out of documents and process information if it is an invoice etc.

In conclusion 

“If the 2013/14 Yahoo data breach happened today”, commented Paul Moonan, Managing Director of Restore Digital, “the company would have faced fines anywhere in the region of $80-160 million. No matter the size of your company, this is a devastating amount. It is important to treat data as a privilege and understand the rules and rights of the individuals. It’s also important to remove the manual aspect of data management. Not only is it time consuming but is prone to errors that can be costly. Utilising technology and robotics can make GDPR a simple task”.

About Restore Digital

 Restore is the largest UK-owned document management company, working with over 4,000 small, medium and blue-chip companies from our 100+ locations across the length and breadth of the UK. No matter where you’re based, Restore always has an office or bureau nearby.

All our solutions stem from our unrivalled scanning capabilities. We have the largest fleet of IBML scanners in Europe and our document scanning service is second to none. 

This core function of scanning is enhanced by our data capture and automated solutions that means paper documents aren’t just turned into a PDF, but the data contained within them can work harder and be pushed to the right people or databases in a timely fashion.

For further information please visit: www.restore.co.uk/

Dynama’s organisational design and resource management software is awarded a place on G-Cloud 10

Dynama – Andrew Carwardine – Managing Director

Dynama is delighted to announce that its organisational design, resource management and workforce optimisation software has been accepted onto the latest iteration of the UK Government’s Digital Marketplace, G-Cloud 10.  This coincides with the successful listing of Dynama on AusTender, the Australian Government’s Procurement Information System.  Dynama’s proven track record of working with some of the most respected organisations in the industry, means public sector and defence organisations around the world rely on its leading software to maximise the effectiveness of their skilled personnel, assets and surety of compliance, in often complex and diverse environments, safely and cost-effectively.

Dynama currently supports some of the most challenging operations in the public sector including the UK’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary, NATO, US military and the Australian Defence Force.  Most recently, the Dynama OneView application has been successfully deployed as NATO’s new Automated Personnel Management System (APMS) providing organisational structure management, HR and logistic support to personnel across 29 Member Nations in Europe, North America and Allied Partners around the world.  Dynama is also currently working in partnership with Andromeda Systems Incorporated and the US Department of Defense (DoD) to provide Dynama OneView, to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme.  This is used to aggregate and visualise data for the entire programme, which encompasses over 2,700 aircraft, with their associated personnel and support equipment.

Andrew Carwardine, Managing Director of Dynama said, “We are proud to be accepted onto the Government’s latest G-Cloud framework and to have the opportunity to share the benefits of our technology with those who keep us safe and secure on a daily basis.  These vital service providers share the common challenges of deploying appropriately skilled staff to the right place often at short notice and within budget constraints.  With our fully automated solution which has been accepted by the Government’s Digital Marketplace, public sector organisations can trust us to help them create robust organisational design, resource management and workforce optimisation strategies that boost efficiencies and control costs in a highly flexible way.”

Dynama has over 25 years’ experience of providing the specialist knowledge and technology necessary for both commercial, defence and government customers in heavily regulated industries, where legislative compliance, health & safety and the deployment of scarce, expensive and highly qualified resource are top priorities.  Dynama OneView is a single, integrated organisational design and resource management solution which customers exploit to ensure their people and resources are applied with maximum efficiency in the right place and at the right time.  Based on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) architecture, OneView eliminates the need for hardware saving on infrastructure costs and capital expenditure.  For more inforobalmation, visit www.dynama.gl

ENGIE Establishes Responsible Business Charter and Independent Scrutiny Board

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

ENGIE, the leading energy and services Group, has established a new Responsible Business Charter and independent Scrutiny Board, further underlining the company’s commitment to operate to the highest economic, social and environmental standards.

The Charter ensures that ENGIE will make commitments in the four areas of fair business growth, transparency and accountability, being a fair employer, and supporting our communities and environment. The Charter responds to the need for the business to demonstrate how it contributes to society more widely.

The company’s adherence with the Responsible Business Charter will be overseen by the newly established independent Scrutiny Board, chaired by Lord Bob Kerslake. The Scrutiny Board will report back to ENGIE’s UK Executive Board and be supported and independently validated by the Centre for Public Scrutiny.

The four commitments will be validated by supporting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on key issues including, speed of supplier payments, fair executive pay, customer satisfaction, pension obligations, environmental and social responsibility, diversity and inclusion, and living wage.

Wilfrid Petrie, CEO of ENGIE UK, said: “Operating in a responsible and transparent manner has been absolutely fundamental to ENGIE’s operations, and I am proud that we have formally established this commitment through the Responsible Business Charter.  I believe that the Charter and work of the Scrutiny Board will establish a new industry standard helping us to lead in responsible business practice.”

Lord Bob Kerslake, Chair of the Scrutiny Board said: “UK energy and service companies are facing evermore public scrutiny of their business, so it is extremely encouraging that ENGIE has acted pro-actively to strengthen their business practices.  I and the other Scrutiny Board members are looking forward to working with ENGIE to ensure they continue to operate for the benefit of all their stakeholders.”

More information on the Responsible Business Charter and Scrutiny Board can be found at www.engie.co.uk/responsiblebusiness.

ENGIE enters local authority energy white label market with Cheshire West and Chester Council’s ‘Qwest Energy’

ENGIE, the leading energy and services Group, has signed its first energy white label contract with a local authority – Cheshire West and Chester – to supply householders across the north-west of England from a new local energy platform called Qwest Energy.

The proposition sees ENGIE become the first private sector business to partner with a local authority to launch into the local energy company market for four years – after a series of council-only owned initiatives. Qwest Energy has been developed through Qwest Services; Cheshire West and Chester Council’s joint venture company, set up in 2015, to provide expertise in facilities management, customer services, workplace solutions and digital transformation across the region.

Qwest Energy aims to help local residents save money on their energy bills, with a specific focus on reaching out to disengaged and vulnerable customers. For every new customer, Qwest Energy will provide a contribution to a Qwest Energy Community Fund. The new platform will leverage ENGIE’s existing infrastructure, which is already serving over 75,000 home energy customers across the UK.

Paul Roberts, Managing Director of ENGIE’s home energy business said: “For our first local energy launch we are delighted to be providing our services to Cheshire West and Chester and to be providing a unique range of propositions tailored to the specific requirements of the area – backed by our desire to make a difference for those most in need. We see this venture as a long-term partnership for the benefit of residents across the whole region.”

Andrew Lewis, Chief Executive at Cheshire West and Chester Council added: “Qwest Energy will support thousands of residents, the community and the environment for years to come. Not only does it offer an affordable option for residents, but the Community Fund will help tackle important issues like fuel poverty.”

2019 HSJ Partnership Awards will showcase education providers’ joint working projects with the NHS

Health Service Journal (HSJ), the news and information service for all healthcare leaders working in, for, or with the NHS, has expanded and enhanced its Partnership Awards for 2019, following the success of its inaugural programme earlier this year.

The newly launched 2019 Partnership Awards, which recognise private sector organisations, including a new category specifically for education providers, that are working to help the NHS deliver better and more cost-effective patient care, boast several new categories and a prestigious black tie dinner awards ceremony at Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge on 20 March 2019

Featuring a total of 21 different categories, covering a broad swathe of sectors, the expanded programme now has new categories, including mental health consultancies and not-for-profit organisations.

A vast range of joint working projects and service providers will be eligible for recognition. Entrants must be able to demonstrate that their projects have made a tangible difference to the NHS by, for example, improving services, facilities or quality of life for patients, or working more efficiently to save money.  

Winning entries in the 2018 HSJ Partnership Awards included new payroll systems, a new clinical pathway for leg ulcers and an alternative dispute resolution protocol tool, with each project demonstrating clear benefits to NHS organisations.

Alastair McLellan, Editor of HSJ, said: “Hundreds of organisations, across numerous sectors, work behind the scenes to assist the NHS. However, their contributions are often unseen and not given due credit. The HSJ Partnership Awards provide the opportunity to celebrate the work of these invaluable contributors who are delivering tangible benefits to NHS patients, clinicians and the facilities they use.

“Building on the tremendous success of the first HSJ Partnership Awards, we have adopted a black tie dinner format, similar to that used for our HSJ Awards programme. The glamorous evening will showcase the innovative projects and long-term support programmes that are really making a difference to the NHS in these challenging economic times.”

The Government & Public Sector Journal (GPSJ) is again working as a media partner for the 2019 awards.

For details on the individual categories and entry criteria, please log on to www.partnership.hsj.co.uk.

Entries must be submitted by 26 October 2018.