Midlands and Lancashire CSU (MLCSU), based in Chester, are one of eight CSU’s operating across the UK.


Introduction

The principle aim of Commissioning Support Units is to provide Clinical Commissioning Groups with external support and specialist skills and knowledge to support them in their role as commissioners, for example by providing:

• Business intelligence services
• Clinical procurement services
• Business support services such as Human Resources (HR), payroll and procurement of goods

Industry:

Health

Country:

United Kingdom

Number of users:

5,000

We provided the following products and services:

  • Microsoft Azure PaaS

  • Data Centre Migration

  • Microsoft Integration Services

The challenge

The MLCSU Applications Development team host a number of on-line products (web sites and systems) for its clients. The majority of applications were www-based, while a small number were on the N3 healthcare integration platform. 

The www-based products were hosted on the CSU’s own hardware in an NHS Data Centre at Leigh Infirmary, near Wigan. The products included the hosting of transactional NHS systems, websites and the hosting of their client’s own hardware notably Sheffield Children’s Hospital, which contains sensitive personal data.

The risks associated with the on-premise hosting environment included:

  • Unsupported Hardware; a large majority of the physical assets that supported key line of business systems were beyond end of life support.
  • Single point of failure (staff); the existing environment was maintained by a single member of staff, by moving to Azure PaaS there would be an opportunity for staff to focus on developing a broader and wider understanding of the new platform. 
  • Remote management; some DC support activities required on-site visits e.g. changing backup tapes. This wasted valuable time and resources.

The hosting arrangement at Leigh Infirmary presented unacceptable risks to both the CSU and their customers.

Our solution

Following a successful Azure Proof of Concept by CoreAzure and the CSU development team in September 2018, a decision was made to migrate the www-based products to the Microsoft Azure PaaS cloud platform.

The CSU development team and CoreAzure adopted a highly collaborative approach to both the design and build of the PaaS platform but also the migration of 55 in scope applications. The one-team philosophy helped build the skills and understanding within the client team to provide on-going support but also following the initial 7 PaaS migrations that the CSU team were able to complete the job with CoreAzure experts operating in an advisory capacity.

The design and build of the Azure environment, along with the first phase of PaaS migrations was successfully complete by February 2019, and the CSU are on allowing MLCSU track to exit from their previous hosting arrangement and thus lower levels of residual risk.

Following the project, three key benefits of moving to Azure were realised;

  • Improved Performance; during tests of both MLCSU’s web sites and transactional systems, performance was better on Azure than it was on physical hosting. In particular, the transactional systems such as PETD and CPD-Apply showed noticeably faster performance.
  • Central management; the applications team are now also versed and are managing the new Azure estate. The need for off-site maintenance visits has also been removed, saving staff vital time.
  • Platform knowledge (support + development); the CSU staff can maintain and improve the platform through development work.


CoreAzure have been instrumental in designing and building an Azure platform here at MLCSU. We have removed the risks associated with our previous hosting platform, and now have the correct infrastructure in place to support the vision and change that we want to achieve here to deliver the best possible service to our customers in the NHS.

Bill Douglas, Application Development Business Manager, Midlands and Lancashire CSU.

Results

  • Avoided increasing risk of running their application on the legacy environment

  • Moved to a new technology platform, capable of spinning new projects up quickly