How the NHS can help Itself: Three Ways to Reduce Inefficiencies

Our NHS is in crisis. It is in the midst of the worst financial crisis in a generation, with hospitals overspending by £2.4bn in 2015/16. According to an NHS Framework report, hospitals are wasting over £420m in paperwork, with some spending six times more than others on documentation and legal costs.

Overspend of this magnitude has the potential to negatively impact on patient care. These inconsistencies are further proof that we need to eradicate costly, paper-based processes, in a bid to reduce spend on unnecessary and primitive procedures, and put money back into patient care.

Paperwork has traditionally been the backbone of the NHS. Patient notes, registration, discharge and prescriptions rely on practitioners writing down information on a patients’ condition, or scribbling medication on a notepad to be processed at the pharmacy. While some have embraced iPads, there are still entire warehouses dedicated to the storage of medical information.

Trusts and CCGs need to take responsibility and make steps towards digital transformation in a bid to reduce the deficit. Here are three ways hospitals can improve efficiency:

Discharge Forms: Only sick people belong in hospital which is why it is so staggering that thousands of ‘fit to leave’ patients are left waiting days, sometimes weeks, for discharge. This could be because there are not enough nurses to manage admissions and discharge.

We’re working with NHS Digital to improve assessments and discharge for patients transferring from hospital to social care. With PretaForm nurses, clinicians and care workers are able to access, complete and amend patient forms online, reducing discharge delays and freeing up vital resources.

Medicines Management: Accuracy in prescribing medication is paramount, but unfortunately there are still too many errors made through illegible handwriting or delays in administering medicine. Producing paper-based scripts leaves more room for error with hasty written notes, and again requires a huge amount of paper to produce scripts for each patient.

Getting hospitals online and enabling digital prescriptions could reduce the risk of human error and provide a far more cost effective process. These documents could then be transmitted to pharmacists or GPs electronically, rather than relying on the postal service or patients taking care of documents.

Human Resources: Staff handbooks, training manuals, monthly printed wage slips; these are still a familiar sight in the NHS. The cost of printing is staggering and creates a huge amount of paperwork that needs to be disposed of correctly to ensure confidentiality. Moving these processes online could not only save the NHS millions but also streamline the process to make it more efficient.