However, this ‘new normal’ has meant a seismic shift in the way many people now have to work and particularly how services are delivered by the public sector. The shock of the lockdown leading to instant demands on healthcare, furloughs and immediate surges in levels of unemployment, increases of health-related subsidies and major effects on the ‘gig economy’ has led to an extraordinary demand on most government departments delivering public services.
Not only have these services had to cope with protecting their own staff in such difficult circumstances, they have had to cater for increased demand, in some cases such as the The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), of more than 1200%. The response has been to move civil servants from their ‘day jobs’ to front line activities while also having to embrace remote working and use of collaboration tools for the first time. For some Departments, (DWP, NHS and Secure) this has meant the acceleration of 6-7 years of technology advancement in the space of a few weeks. They have had to play catch up because of tightly reigned budgets or strict governance which had previously prevented the adoption of cloud services. Exceptional circumstances have enforced this change due to the need to release benefit payments quickly, ensure NHS pensions are paid, or that secure national data is not compromised.
The reaction from our civil servants to meet these challenges has been immense and the commitment to serve the public truly outstanding with a ready acceptance to adopt new ways of working. With many managers now assisting frontline staff on the ‘shop floor’, there is now a greater appreciation for the benefits of investing in remote working and cloud services, giving justification to increased spending in these technologies.
A vital key to unlocking the ability to meet this ‘new normal’ has been digital transformation and those Departments that had already engaged on this approach were able to react the quickest. Having a mindset and capability of agile design and data insight to rapidly respond to changing user demands enabled the digitisation of public services, allowing a wider and quicker access for the people that needed those services. It has also meant that these digital services can be implemented, maintained, and improved remotely as Valtech has achieved in supporting NHS Digital, NHS Business Services Authority and London North Eastern Railway.
Reimagining and digitising these services were critical for areas which have traditionally been delivered through, for example, face to face interactions such as benefit claims, enabling claimants to receive assessment decisions remotely with the processes accelerated. These successful citizen interactions were based on having a user-centric design, putting the citizen’s needs at the heart of the service design, coupled with a new method of remote delivery.
For Healthcare, the new normal has necessitated an increase in collaboration and knowledge sharing between organisations (both public and private sector) to deliver innovation in response to the pandemic.