Matt Wall, ConsultHR Operational Lead at the NHS South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit, says it's time for a new approach
Nationally, the NHS must embrace more technology, specifically; self-service technology, and do as much as it can to reduce costs, improve internal efficiencies and reduce duplication of efforts. The problem, of course, is quite how.
At my own commissioning support unit, for instance, we have recently finished a programme of self-service technology deployment, which currently includes new cloud-based staff expenses technology, payslip self-service and a policy portal to create a more modern HR and payroll function. let me set the scene for why that was needed.
NHS South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit (SCW) was formed following the merger in April 2015 of the South, Central Southern, and South West Commissioning Support Units. This follows a national trend, which has seen effectively around 20 CSUs reduced down to 7 CSU ‘alliances’ in the past two or so years. As you can imagine, bringing together so many teams and processes, it is very easy to duplicate efforts and resources.
We are now providing operational support to 25 CCGs and 1200 NHS employees in the South. However, those employees are spread across a very wide geography – it is a truly dispersed customer base, with NHS employees working from East Sussex to Cornwall and up to Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.Likewise, our managers are not always in the office; they work from remote sites, visiting CCGs or working from home. Historically, we’ve had a lot of paper based, manual functions, for example, submission of expenses forms and distribution of payslips, but these simply don’t work well in such disparate organisations.
The challenges are obvious – lost forms, paper storage costs, poor communication back to staff about the status of claims and pay, slow reimbursement of costs and incomplete audit trails. To combat this, we have recently deployed a range of technologies. Firstly, cloud-based staff expenses software from Software Europe [see our recent interview with this supplier].
The online system enables staff to submit their own expense claims – including scanned receipts - from any location via any device. This instantly solves issues with missing receipts, tracking the paper flow, printing costs and paper storage. The claims can be reviewed and approved online – with automated communication back to staff. Plus, the cloud software has great auditing powers for managers.
We’re even saving time by linking the software and, automating the flow of expenses information, to McKesson, our payroll provider - which saves any ‘re-keying’ of expenses information by McKesson’s team into its own payment system. We’ve actually raised this very important point with NHS England; if we’re reducing workload for the payroll provider - by automating processes and reducing re-keying of information - that must be helping to reduce costs!
Similarly, we have also recently introduced a new portal to store our HR policies and procedures. The policy forms are standardised and work for our team, but can also be used across each of our CCG customers, as opposed to each writing their own. This is saving us and each CCG time and resources and is only possible through this amazing self-service portal. We’ve also scrapped hardcopy payslips and made them available securely online for self-service. A few people were surprised at first not to be receiving a payslip in the post, but they soon realised its benefits when they could very quickly update their own details – religion, bank details or address, etc. - view P60s online and check their NHS pension Total Reward Statements.
Self-service technology is not new to the NHS. We’ve seen kiosks used by our own patients for many years to book appointments and check-in for arrival at GP surgeries and hospitals.
But given the increasingly mobile workforce necessary in the NHS, a greater focus on treating patients in the community and closely merged operations between organisations, the need for cloud-based, standardised self-service technology is now essential. I’d really like to see this happen right across the NHS.
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