As part of its duty to put in place robust business continuity arrangements to ensure service delivery, NHS Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) approached Arden & GEM to review and strengthen existing policies, plans and processes.
Working closely with the CCG’s leadership and governance teams, Arden & GEM managed a process of reviewing existing arrangements, identifying potential gaps and issues, improving plans and developing a culture of shared responsibility with staff.
As a result, the potential impact of a business continuity event on service delivery has been minimised, giving staff, partners and patients greater confidence. After 12 months of progress, an external audit found the CCG has achieved full business continuity assurance.
All NHS organisations have a duty to put in place robust business continuity arrangements, under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are a category two responder. Additionally, under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, NHS England Core Standards for Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) must have stringent plans and processes to maintain their services during any disruption or recover to pre-set standards as soon as possible.
Business Continuity Management (BCM) gives organisations a framework for identifying and managing risks that could disrupt normal service and is an essential tool in establishing an organisation’s resilience. With a desire to improve their business continuity plans and preparedness, NHS Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) approached Arden & GEM’s Integrated Governance team, in summer 2018, for support to review, improve and embed business continuity arrangements.
Arden & GEM’s business continuity expertise draws upon cross-sector and cross-organisational experience to act as a critical friend to our clients, going beyond traditional NHS approaches to BCM. We worked through the following areas to help Dudley CCG meet its individual challenges.
Completing risk assessments
The first step was to undertake a physical risk assessment and audit of the CCG’s sites and facilities, including the main office and outposted teams. From this any potential issues, or gaps in current plans, were identified and captured in a report for appropriate consideration and action.
Raising staff awareness
The second step was to improve staff awareness of business continuity planning and their role and contribution within this. In addition to producing a staff awareness leaflet, twice yearly sessions were organised for all of the CCG’s 80 plus staff members. The sessions were championed by the CCG’s Chief Executive Officer and provided an overview of business continuity planning and the role of staff.
Improving BCP through simulation
One of the CSU’s business continuity experts facilitated and led a table-top exercise to test the completeness and applicability of the CCG’s BCP. All staff members with responsibility for incident response and crisis management were brought together to work through an IT system scenario that threatened business continuity.
The exercises are now repeated annually and, by taking participants through a potential incident are designed to spot any gaps in communication, action or process and build improvements into the BCP. We produce a report and recommendations following the table-top exercises to achieve this.
Annual policy review
In order to ensure that the CCG’s business continuity policy continues to meet international standards and emergency preparedness requirements, we complete an annual policy review. The review also ensures that the business continuity plan is aligned to any changes in policy and that both workstreams are compliant with ISO 22301.
In addition to the annual simulation exercises and review, Arden & GEM provides ongoing support through incident monitoring and flagging, information sharing calls, and advice and assurance on emerging issues such as Brexit planning and preparations.
Following an initial 12-month project to review and strengthen BCM, the potential impact of a business continuity event on service delivery for Dudley CCG has been minimised, giving staff, partners and patients greater confidence.
In addition to ensuring compliance with statutory obligations and international standards, this programme of work has also:
- Provided valuable information about the organisation and its critical activities and systems
- Reduced operational and financial risk
- Developed a culture of resilience and shared responsibility.
An external audit in summer 2019 reported that full business continuity assurance has been achieved.
Ongoing tailored support will enable BCM arrangement to be continually reviewed and refined to maintain assurance and stakeholder confidence.
"Arden & GEM provides an incredibly supportive service, always available to help and make business continuity easy to understand. Together we have achieved full assurance from our auditors."
Emma Smith – Governance Support Manager at Dudley CCG