The client

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust is the world's first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education, leading in this field since 1851.

The KPI

Cost saving: 30% cost reduction compared with alternative systems

The context

In 2019, Royal Marsden were in the process of setting up a wholly owned subsidiary, RM Medicines, to run pharmacy services internally.

After their procurement lead researched the various systems available to support the financial operations of the subsidiary, they came to the conclusion that the best way to meet their needs was to implement Odoo ERP Community Edition.

Following review and proof of capability, OpusVL were selected as Royal Marsden's partners for this project.

Open source

It was crucial to Royal Marsden that the ERP system should be a license free, open source solution, so that they had perpetual use of the system without ongoing license costs.

Patrick Highland, Finance Manager, Systems and Reporting at Royal Marsden, commented that:

"The NHS is an altruistic body and open source mimics the altruistic nature from an IT perspective"

Given that the use of open source software is an essential part of the Open Digital Approach that underpins OpusVL's software delivery to the NHS, both parties were clearly aligned in their vision for the delivery of this project from the outset.

The brief

Royal Marsden established three key objectives for the project:

  • To increase staff productivity through automation of standardised operational and system processes
  • To realise increased value for money through delivery of a product that avoids contractually hard and soft vendor lock-in
  • To deliver an ERP solution to support the RM Medicines subsidiary

Royal Marsden specified a range of financial modules to be included in their cloud-hosted Odoo Community application, which were:

  • General Ledger
  • Accounts Payable
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Fixed Assets
  • Cash Management

Straightforward data transfer with the Trust’s pharmacy system (WellSky - formerly JAC) was required as this not only manages electronic prescribing and dispensing, but also procurement through a custom file format. The team purchase the stock they need through WellSky, so it was crucial that these transactions were accurately reflected in the finance system.

This integration would enable Royal Marsden's finance team to rapidly and reliably import financial and purchasing data from Wellsky into the Odoo ERP system, for accounting purposes and accurately invoicing suppliers in a timely fashion.

The solution also needed to be compliant with HMRC Making Tax Digital requirements.

In addition to the operational outcomes, Royal Marsden outlined a number of key parameters for the ERP solution such as performance and sizing, in order to future-proof the solution and meet the growth needs.

Mutual goals were defined and and the respective partners committed to a partnership approach to this project.

The journey

Narender Govindgari, Project Owner at OpusVL, explained that:

"The team worked closely with Royal Marsden to understand their challenges, their business needs and discuss how the new system could help them. We then went on to design training and hand-over plans for the staff once the system was in place"

The decision to use a full open source stack gave the project teams control of all aspects of the build, with a strong focus on customising the ERP solution to meet the specific needs of Royal Marsden.

The challenges of getting the new system to work alongside Wellsky and implementing the Making Tax Digital module were simple ones to solve for the OpusVL team, again thanks to the nature of open source and the lack of any artificial barriers.

This approach enabled the team to configure the Odoo system to meet the data interchange requirements of Wellsky, in order for purchasing and financial data to be imported into the ERP and automate the entries.

As Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a requirement for all UK VAT registered businesses, OpusVL provided a module that interfaces to Odoo Community and HMRC.

The delivery

The OpusVL team made sure that all of the standard financial modules set out in the requirements documents were delivered and provided the additional functionality such as bank integration, pharmacy integration and enhanced reporting.

To ensure implementation was as smooth as possible, Scott Ferris, OpusVL's Business Analyst, created training videos so that the Royal Marsden staff could become acquainted with the new ERP system in their own time.

Providing good value for money, the comprehensive feature set and customised integration within the short project timeline would not have been possible had it not been for the adaptability and flexibility of the Open Source Odoo ERP.

On Odoo's modular design, along with the ability to repeatably and reliably deliver updates, Mr Highland remarked that "it certainly helped us facilitate the 2-3 month turnaround for the ERP".

He went on to offer praise of the OpusVL team, with whom he had put a great deal of faith in to get this project over the line, saying that:

"The OpusVL team were incredibly adaptable and able to solve problems"

The outcome

Now in production, accounting of the RM Medicines subsidiary, including Wellsky (JAC) and RBS bank, is automated and integrated.

The Odoo Open Source ERP system has been live at Royal Marsden since Autumn 2020.

The ERP system has joined up RM Medicine's finance systems, achieving Royal Marsden's objectives outlined in the brief and as Mr Highland comments:

"Odoo is delivering exactly what we wanted it to do".

Developed together through the Open Digital Approach, Royal Marsden are now in control of their ERP system and enjoy unencumbered and perpetual use, whilst further benefiting from the ability to iteratively improve throughout its lifespan.

The nature of this approach means that, as Stuart Mackintosh, Founder/CEO of OpusVL describes:

"Royal Marsden join a community of users of this technology, and can benefit from future development sponsored by other Trusts. This is an exemplar of the public money, public code principle"

So, it's not just Royal Marsden who benefit from this implementation, but other NHS organisations who can implement the technology used in this project.

Favouring freely-available open source technology over costly proprietary software, Royal Marsden are projected to make cost savings of £200k, ensuring the NHS sees value-for-money from their investment.

Praising this philosophy, Mr Highland commented that "we are pleased we went with the decision to use open source". He further stressed the impact of successfully delivering value for money with this project, by adding that "we now have a working platform that is free to use and develop".

This project validated that an open approach can enable the delivery of rapid and reliable digital transformation for the health and care sector, while at the same time providing cost savings by avoiding the license charges of proprietary systems.