Tech for Good with Paul Morris, Associate CIO Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Since moving into an information role at Bolton Hospital in 2003, Paul has always aspired to be a leader within the BI Informatics space. Working a number of roles across the Northwest, from assistant analyst in Bolton’s information team to supporting the specialised commissioning team in Cumbria and Lancashire, Paul moved towards leadership at Blackpool PCTas the Information Manager and later Head of Informatics.
“I was covering how information is managed across both commissioning and provision of services.”
That progression led Paul into the BI space as head of BI at Royal Liverpool where he remained for the next 4 years.
“That's where I really developed a passion for data driven analysis, business intelligence, and how an organisation can really use its data to inform its decisions, and to inform the services it's providing.”
From Liverpool, Paul moved to Bolton CCG where he took the position of Associate Director of Informatics. A big step for Paul, he had to change his focus , which gave him a lot more exposure to the IT side as opposed to just Data and BI.
Paul's move to Alder Hey placed him back in data and BI with heaps of experience of leading an IT function under his belt.
With 22 years in the NHS, Paul has had a long and decorated career. Now responsible for all things data at Alder Hey, Paul leads a number of different teams from analytics, BI and Clinical coding to achieve the Trust’s data goals and support service.
A Pragmatic Leader
The last 12 months have been incredibly challenging for everyone. For those leading teams who have had to adjust to new working conditions, it’s been a real test of leadership methodologies. For Paul, who considers himself a pragmatic leader, who has spent his life coaching others and being coached himself – it's been a learning curve.
“If I had to put my leadership style down on paper I'd probably put ‘coach’.”
With Paul’s team quickly adopting MS Teams, communication is as seamless as ever – but for tactile leaders like Paul, who like to knuckle down and hash out problems, it’s been a transitionary period.
“I like to draw things on notepads and then like to scribble things over and red pen, if you know, and that kind of thing. You can't really do that over MS teams. So, it's been a challenge. But I think because we've all been working this way for nearly 12 months, people are beginning to see it as a normal way of working.”
Add to that the fact that Paul is a relatively new starter to the team at Alder Hey and you’ve got a tricky remit – join a new team, get up to speed, make an impact and do it all while working remote. A saving grace, for Paul, was the fact that he was already well versed in the technical challenges they were facing thanks to his technical background. This firm technical foundation meant he could easily build relationships across the trust.
“A lot of the challenges we’ve faced in these past few weeks have been challenges we’ve been able to quickly overcome because the terminology and the way things are done are familiar to me.”
That technical background has been a useful tool for building solid foundations and relationships with the other technical people across the trust.
The NHS’ Data Drive
Data is the oil of a digital age. How many times have we heard that? Despite becoming a bit of a caricature, Data is a massive industry that is only going in one direction: up. And despite the pandemic putting the brakes on many industries growth plans, data, on the other hand, has only had its importance highlighted with smart, remote working becoming mainstream.
Almost 71 years ago the NHS was built on the guiding principles of belonging to all and providing free high-quality care at the point of need. With the advent of data-driven technologies, the opportunity to continue to ensure that the NHS remains one of the leading healthcare systems in the world is something the organisation is embracing.
Through professionals like Paul and his team, the NHS are realising the data potential of the NHS.
“There is a lot of desire to use data to garner benefits and drive individual organisations and the NHS forwards. We have so much data at our fingertips.”
But data alone isn’t going to help transform the workings of an organisation. Data accountability and representation at the highest level of the NHS to ensure that this data is turned into the vital insights that can transform the way the NHS delivers care.
“It's not just about providing data, any organisation can extract data, transform it and stick it into some charts and provide information through to their operational teams and clinicians. But we've got to go a step further than that. Namely, we need to be providing what people are asking for.”
Of course, it isn’t all on the people above. Paul puts an emphasis on the individual Analyst – they should continue to push the boundaries of data and information.
“As analysts, we should be utilising our skills to find new lines of insights and feed things back to our operational colleagues, clinicians, Corporate Services, the executive team, that they might not have asked for, but does impact our organisation. Everybody within an analytical team needs to be a leader. They need to be gaining insight into data and finding pockets of brilliance even when no one is looking.”
Go For It
For those looking to follow in Paul’s footsteps and find a technical leadership role within the NHS, Paul has this advice:
“If you see an opportunity, always go for it, don't hold back and think I'm not quite ready for that. Just try and go for it. Then try and learn what type of leader or manager you want to be and try and find people around you who are like that, who you can learn from.”