We collaborated with NHS Digital to migrate its legacy HES system to a newer version of Oracle running on a new hardware platform


    While the NHS Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) system provides important clinical data, it plays an important non-clinical role too. It enables a wide range of analytical data to be generated and disseminated for planning and benchmarking purposes, academic research, international comparisons, and distribution to parliamentary groups.

    Only a small sample of patient interactions were captured when HES was first conceived in the late 1980s. Over time, however, information needs became increasingly sophisticated and the mechanisms of HES evolved, so it became increasingly resource-intensive and required significant volumes of manual processing.

    Our task was to migrate the legacy HES system to a newer version of Oracle running on a new hardware platform. We also implemented several changes to the existing functionality of HES, improved its performance, optimised its existing database of approximately 1.5 billion records dating to the late 1980s, and assured its sustainability when returned to NHS in-house control.

    Within six months, BJSS and NHS Digital successfully delivered a completely rewritten HES

    The new version of HES benefitted from a substantial reduction in its hardware and processing needs, together with a codebase that was much simpler to understand and maintain. Its original 3.5 million lines of SQL code and 500-step manual process which ran on six machines had been reduced to just 100,000 lines of SQL code and a two-step automated process running on a single machine.

    HES also benefited from complete process automation, disposing of the significant and time-consuming volume of manual tasks that users and administrators had become accustomed to.

    Significant cost savings have been realised 

    While the NHS has reduced its HES-related costs by simply eliminating its reliance on an external third party, the rewritten system provides other cost savings too. It requires significantly less hardware and processing resources, its automation vastly improves staff efficiency levels, and its integration points coupled with knowledge transfer from BJSS allows the NHS to administer their own system without the need for external help.

    Operational risks are reduced


    The manual nature of the legacy platform resulted in some processes taking up to 20 days to be completed. The new solution is fully automated, with the most complex task completing in less than 48 hours. This removes the operational risk of having a process spread across multiple financial months, resulting in incorrect data or a need to complete manual financial reconciliations. Processing errors, common in a manual system, have also been eliminated.

    Improved customer service 

    NHS Digital can rapidly access data, while also quickly and effortlessly mining for bespoke analytical needs. The reduced cycle time brought about by the system’s improved automation enables late or incorrectly processed data to be easily reprocessed in time for month-end formalities.

    An award-winning engagement 

    The NHS Hospital Episode Statistics engagement won Public Sector Project of the Year in the TechWorld Awards, and Big Data Project of the Year in the Tech Success Awards.

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