BCM in a Health Organisation – Who Gets Priority?

Health organisations are a special case (not the only one) in business continuity management. Life and death issues are the backdrop in many cases, while the size and complexity of some hospitals elevate BCM to new levels of complexity. At the same time, they need to generate income in order to pay the ongoing costs of employees and infrastructure. These aspects by themselves already generate a number of questions, even if patient wellbeing and security is generally a major contender for BCM care and attention. However, even questions about priority can become academic if the BCM plan is missing altogether.

A survey just under two years ago of organisations in the British National Health Service revealed that the percentage of entities with BCM plans was in fact lower than in industries such as finance, insurance and government. The survey was carried out by the Chartered Management Institute and covered business continuity management in the UK in general, allowing for comparison between different sectors. It also revealed that about 1 in 7 managers working in health organisations did not know if their organisation had crisis management plans in place: in effect, even if such plans existed, their effectiveness was already compromised.

While the situation in the NHS in the UK is not necessarily that of other national health organisations, priorities can only be effectively defined if the BCM plan exists and is known to all concerned. Thereafter, priorities for IT continuity and clinical continuity can be applied as appropriate: for example, “acute” patients get clinical priority over “elective” patients, while clinical operations, pharmaceutical dispensing and patient admissions are natural candidates for priority for IT resources. Yet as a by-product of ensuring (or recovering) critical clinical services and resources, services for elective patients also benefit, and from that, so do revenues for the health organisation concerned.