Yorkshire success is proof of the pudding for PSN
Jon Browne, programme director for Yorkshire and Humberside PSN, sums up a year of progress on the largest PSN project in the UK
When the Government's Public Services Network (PSN) framework was launched in 2010, there was no shortage of commentary on the benefits it would bring and the cost savings it could deliver. It was positioned as a transformative programme that would slash the cost of government communications and enable "new, joined-up and shared public services for the benefit of citizens".
It was therefore exciting to be one of the first regions to recognise the opportunity and be given the commitment by all 22 Local Authority Chief Executives to sign up to the scheme - if a little daunting actually taking the plunge! Yorkshire and Humber has one of the largest populations in the country, including extensive rural areas, so the challenges we faced were significant. However, so were the potential rewards.
A year ago today we launched the Yorkshire and Humber Public Services Network (YHPSN), procured under the PSN Connectivity and Services Frameworks, and underpinned by Virgin Media Business.
It is currently the largest PSN project in the UK, and is the first to be truly representative of all sectors of public services including health, education, emergency services and local government. The partners include Leeds City Council, Sheffield City Council, North, West and South Yorkshire and Humberside Police, NHS Sheffield and of course the teaching hospitals in Sheffield and Leeds. The Cabinet Office PSN team have been highly supportive of our initiative, and we look forward to continuing and deepening that relationship as the project matures.
It has brought immediate cost savings compared to the patchwork of individual networks and heritage infrastructure that had existed before and opened up the prospect of delivering services in completely new ways. For the first time the YHPSN offers a consistent network infrastructure platform across different public sectors on which a range of services and information sharing regimes can be built safely and securely.
However, a huge number of unknowns remained. How many public sector partners would sign up? And would those that did make the most of the new technology available to them? Ultimately we knew the real test would be whether the results lived up to expectations in the longer term.
So a year on the question is has it been worth it?
The answer is a resounding 'Yes'. YHPSN is currently bringing high-speed connectivity to 28 organisations already, and direct cost savings of £30 million have been identified for these organisations over the next five years. And this is a conservative estimate: if all 50 public service providers join, the saving to the taxpayer could be as much as £50 million, and 5.5 million people in the region would benefit.
Furthermore, additional services have been introduced that sit upon and enhance the scope of the PSN network. These include mobile, voice and internet services, Unified Communications, CCTV, virtualisation and contact centres.
As these new technologies are deployed they are opening the door on transformative new services which impact on people's lives: for example, healthcare professionals can assess their patients in the patient's home, allowing that patient to be engaged and involved in the design of their own care pathway; doctors can now communicate remotely with some patients, freeing up more appointments for serious cases and allowing citizens to be diagnosed from the comfort of their own homes. More patients are being treated in the community, reducing the strain on the acute hospitals.
Meanwhile it is enabling new efficiencies such as allowing the police to share premises with local libraries, or health centres to be used by councils for housing and benefit queries. Thanks to YHPSN, public services in the region are able to optimise usage of their buildings and implement a range of services where the citizen wants them.
The introduction of a single access point for all PSN services will revolutionise the way employees work, allowing people to access vital files and data securely wherever they are, even in other public sector organisation's buildings. As a result of this new, connected environment, we're starting to see much greater collaboration - particularly between councils and health. This will translate into better services for Yorkshire and the Humber and a better deal for taxpayers.
We took a risk in being one of the first to sign up, but we knew that the case was persuasive, lowering costs while improving service delivery and collaboration between partners. We are now able to pose the question, "why would you do it any other way?"
Our success is inspiring other regions, such as the West Midlands, to follow our lead. Whilst any project on this scale brings enormous challenges, the results already show how much there is to gain, and how far a PSN can transform the way people live and work while producing real savings for the taxpayer.