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Waste within the NHS

Jamie Gillan

NHS_blogThere is a lot in the news these days about an expectation of belt-tightening within the public sector. As a software supplier working within the NHS and Public Sector verticals, I get the opportunity to understand their IT environments and gain an insight into various NHS Trusts. We work with some great NHS partners who have seen the light, but sadly, waste is a stark reality and an accepted culture.

The NHS is currently undergoing a period of extensive change - technological, social and economic - which “Change Management” is supposed to address. But those taking up the mantel of Change Management are often plagued by the confusion, bureaucracy, red tape and politics typical of the NHS. Even with the greatest of intentions the best laid plans often come to nothing, even if all concerned agree that the end result will be positive.

Blame?

Of course, those in such a change management role cannot carry sole blame; responsibility should also lie with years of Government bungling and constant policy change. It seems that a Trust just about learns to run with new policies, structure and changes before the ensuing government brings about the next transformation and shake up, with the inevitable result of staff moving on and the whole process changing and starting over.

Culpability can also be pointed at some Trusts that do not like to bring about change in a changing world and prefer to run their organisation as an autonomous republic unwilling to listen to the experiences or learn from the mistakes of comparable NHS organisations around them.

An example

Providing software solutions to the NHS that can bring about quick wins in terms of cutting costs can be both rewarding and frustrating. Rewarding because of its ability to deliver, immediate savings to a department or entire Trust, improvements to patient care and automatic adherence to compliance regulations, yet frustrating when sincere staff with the best intentions and motivation cannot get the project signed off or cannot get the simple equation of “spend a little to save a lot” past the blockers.

For example some time ago I visited a Trust who revealed a (not uncommon) staff policy of buy your own fax machine from Argos or PC World and plug it in at your desk – with the obvious breach of confidentiality implications being ignored and fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds not being deterrent enough. The consequences? Confidential patient records that should have been faxed to GPs or Clinicians were sent to the wrong places including restaurants and pubs!

In addition to these breaches, the cost of running their 300 fax machines was over £170k per month, including hidden costs such as staff time, consumables, and maintenance. In fact, on top of traceability and data protection, eliminating these hidden costs is where the real benefit of Zetafax lies, enabling you to retire unnecessary lines, remove unwanted hardware and automate these otherwise time-consuming processes. We even have a return on investment calculator so you can see for yourself how much you could save, which could be up to 90%.

Unfortunately, despite seeing the cost benefits and testimonials from other trusts in the area, it continues to lack the required prioritisation to drive change.

Even worse, change management teams do at times make some headway, even getting as far as purchasing solutions for thousands of pounds, but then not implementing it due to lack of resource. Waste, it seems, is sadly alive and well, but so too are the solutions to eliminate it.

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