NHS Blood and Transplant uses process and decision automation to transform organ allocation


The UK’s National Health Service Blood & Transplant has deployed cloud-based BPM and Decision Management technologies from IBM to transform the operation of its organ allocation schemes. The organisation also uses cloud-based collaborative modelling tools to enable varied groups of subject-matter expert stakeholders work together to specify key aspects of the schemes it’s addressing.

Case study key facts

Organisation NHS Blood and Transplant – a Special Health Authority within the UK’s National Health Service
Industry Healthcare
Current goals Complete implementation of cloud-based workflow and decision automation systems to support a variety of organ allocation schemes – reducing the costs, risks and time involved in allocating organs to improve outcomes for patients.
Current approach NHS Blood and Transplant is currently part-way through a programme of work to apply BPM and Decision Management technologies to its organ allocation schemes, replacing out-dated and brittle application software. The first scheme to be implemented – for the allocation of hearts – took just 6 months to implement, using a co-located and cross-functional team.
Outcome Through its implementation of BPM and Decision Management technology, NHSBT has vastly simplified its heart allocation scheme and reduced allocation times. New schemes are set to deliver further life-saving and life-improving benefits.
Further, NHSBT has built a platform on which it can continue to streamline and digitise organ allocation schemes – and make these schemes easy to change with confidence as new allocation outcome evidence comes to light.
Tools and suppliers used Blueworks Live, Business Process Manager (BPM) on Cloud and Operational Decision Management (ODM) on Cloud from IBM; implementation services from specialist IBM partner T-Impact.

Organisation background

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) was formed in October 2005 from the merger of the UK’s National Blood Service (founded in 1946) and UK Transplant (formed from a number of agencies originally formed from 1968 onwards). NHSBT operates as a Special Health Authority: a NHS Trust that operates nationally, rather than providing services to one particular geographic area.

NHSBT is responsible for providing safe blood supply to hospitals in England, and providing tissues and solid organs to hospitals across the UK. Each year, NHSBT works with donors giving around two million donations of blood and 3,500 organs, saving and transforming countless lives. It collects, tests, processes, stores and delivers blood, plasma and tissue to every NHS Trust in England; and it matches, allocates, audits and analyses organ donations across the whole of the UK.

Project background and drivers

Matching and delivering donated organs to recipients involves the co-ordination of a complicated, highly time-critical set of operational processes. Over years, NHSBT has developed and continuously improved allocation schemes for all the types of organ that can be donated: from kidneys (involved in over 80% of organ transplants) to livers, pancreas, hearts and lungs. Each organ type has its own allocation scheme, based on a number of factors – including of course a number of clinical matching factors (age, body size, tissue match, and so on): but also including estimates of the likely benefit of a donation to a given recipient and ‘fairness’ criteria (prioritising recipients based on the length of time they’ve been waiting for an organ).

Crucially, it’s not only the case that the allocation schemes involved in matching donated organs to recipients are complicated and time-critical; they also evolve over time. Advisory groups comprising expert doctors and surgeons meet regularly to review clinical outcomes associated current schemes, and make changes to best-practice guidance.

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