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Case Study

Creating Secure Remote Access During Covid-19

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the key healthcare providers in the Northwest. Covering Lancashire and South Cumbria, it provides healthcare services to more than 1.5 million people, as well as medical education for students at the University of Manchester and St. Andrews University.

The problem

When the Trust realised that the impact of COVID-19 would mean significantly more staff working from home, they asked us to help implement a solution without delay. This included members of staff at their trauma centre with its leading pathology services which was designated as one of a dozen key regional hubs for COVID-19 testing across the UK. Our challenge was to ensure that even a ten-fold increase in remote users would have no impact on user experience.

Some of our people still needed to be on site. However, in order to minimise the risk of infection, clinical and administrative staff were asked to work from home where feasible

Saeed Umar, Head of Technical Services,
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Our Solution

The Trust’s existing remote access system could only accommodate up to 500 concurrent users. What was needed was a more robust solution capable of handling far more clinical and administration staff. Our solution needed to be up and running without delay as a soaring number of key workers required immediate and secure access to the Trust’s online systems.

Luckily, the year before, the Trust had worked with ourselves and F5 to investigate enhancements to its existing solutions. This had led to the replacement of its existing remote access solution with F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) in order to secure, simplify and centralize access to apps, APIs and data – irrespective of where users and their apps are located.

What we needed to do was quickly and efficiently upgrade this system and raise the number of concurrent remote users. Within just hours of being asked to help with the anticipated impact of COVID-19, F5 and FullProxy moved to upgrade the existing system and raise the maximum number of concurrent remote users to 2,000.

Man wearing headphones working on laptop

The results

The flexibility and the strong relationship between all three organisations meant that the project, was completed in record time. With all remote staff securely accessing their applications, the Trust was able to execute on business continuity plans without any issues, including the constant delivery of world-class healthcare to its patients. This remained the case even as concurrent remote users surged from 70 per day to over 700+ during the pandemic’s peak.

Even when our remote users increased by ten times there was no impact on the user experience. Our staff were so impressed they were even talking about it on social media

Jonathan Wood, Deputy CEO,
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Not only did the Trust’s staff now had seamless access to applications from home, but in addition, the expanded use of Microsoft Teams also increased collaboration between team members, boosted staff morale and helped to improve work-life balance throughout an unprecedently challenging time. Staff feedback was unanimously positive and there were no negative impacts on any individuals’ ability to work.

Thanks to the success of the project, the Trust is now considering allowing more staff to work from home permanently. Which in turn will result in considerable cost savings associated with physical infrastructures and facilities management.

Products used

F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager
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