South of England local authority uses Huddle to collaborate securely across the firewall on healthcare administrative data and disaster recovery planning.


Bracknell Forest Council is one of six unitary authorities within Berkshire in southern England. It covers the two towns of Bracknell and Sandhurst as well as surrounding areas that include Crowthorne, North Ascot and Winkfield. The Council supports a population of more than 113,000 citizens

The abolition of Berkshire County Council in 1998 led to major changes in the way public health services were administered across the south of England region. The Council was replaced by six local authorities (West Berkshire, Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell Forest, Slough and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead), with the result that local NHS public health teams were scattered across the region in each authority. They continued to administer excellent healthcare as they always had done. However, according to Andrew Hodby, Technical development officer at Bracknell Forest Council, an important ingredient was missing from their day-to-day work.

“We had 45 staff administering health services from six locations and it became very difficult for them to collaborate on content,” he explains. “Although they were not dealing with highly confidential patient healthcare data, they needed to be certain any content shared across the firewall was shared securely.” The typical content the teams were dealing with ranged from anonymised data, for statistical analysis and promotional healthcare leaflets, to strategic planning reports. For example, the extended team might work together on a survey of teenage pregnancy rates across the region. The report might then form the basis of an education programme rolled out to local schools and colleges.

Huddle includes Pan Government IL2 accreditation

Huddle was the ideal solution to enable this secure, external collaboration. Hodby explains: “The local authority team in Reading were already using Huddle and recommended we take a look. With security at the front of our minds, it was encouraging to see Huddle was pan government accredited at IL2. This meant we had a central place for the public health teams to securely manage projects, share documents, review content and hold discussions.” Following a very brief training session, the teams were almost immediately productive on Huddle, using it to securely create and share content across the six local authorities’ teams, other agencies and third-parties. Strict workspace permissions ensure they always know who has seen which file, and when, and strict version controls ensure the teams collaborate on the right version of each document. Hodby likes what he sees. “We began with basic file sharing and Huddle became very popular, very quickly. Now a member of the team simply loads a file into the secure workspace and invites others to comment on the file. Sharing local government content externally – especially when it has the word ‘healthcare’ in it – can be fraught with difficulty. Huddle makes that collaboration quick, safe and very productive. We reach our end goal much more quickly now.”

Disaster recovery planning collaboration made easy

Bracknell Forest Council is now extending its use of Huddle into business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) planning. Almost every aspect of the local authority’s operation is vulnerable to disruption and in extreme circumstances, such as the flooding that recently beset the South of England, these risks could take local services offline. It is therefore imperative that Bracknell has an accurate, up-to-date BCRD plan available to cope with any eventuality. In response, Hodby and his team are starting to use Huddle’s cloud-based collaborative platform to build the BCDR plan and ensure that all key stakeholders have immediate access to the latest version, no matter whether the corporate network is available or not. The first step is to prepare a disaster recovery plan for IT – how to ensure the technology infrastructure continues in the event of a crisis. The second phase will be a BCDR plan for the business. Should disaster strike, this coherent framework for emergency planning and response will enable the Council to immediately determine how employees will communicate, where they will go and how they will keep doing their jobs.

“Let’s say for example the building was flooded and no-one could get access. If the BCDR plan was on an email or one of our servers, we wouldn’t be able to get hold of it. With Huddle, we can simply access the BCDR plan through the Huddle app on an iPad and activate and administer the BCDR plan directly. Huddle’s seamless, secure collaboration will allow the Council to take immediate pre-emptive action and limit the impact of disruptions to public services delivery,” says Hodby. “Huddle has re-defined the way Bracknell Forest Council manages content,” he concludes. “We benefit from IL2 government-grade security, we can work with agencies and other external partners as though they are part of the Council and we can push projects to completion far more quickly. I couldn’t imagine life without Huddle.”