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Monday, December 05, 2011

NHS and waste

My quote for the day-
"All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident." --Schopenhauer.

I saw an article on The Register's site last week. You can access it here-

I read it with interest as I have been spending a lot of time at my local hospital. I'm currently attending three or four different clinics and I've been in and out of hospital a few times recently as well. I probably know as much about what is happening at the coal face than the bosses upstairs. Added to which is the fact that I have had a huge amount of experience in various jobs in my career. You can check out just how varied by reading my other blog-

The problem with all political decisions is this- whichever party is in power, the decisions and strategies are always worked out by the civil service in Whitehall. So whatever the parties may try, nothing changes. Even the current upheaval in the NHS won't make the slightest difference. The bodies currently administrating it (The PCTs) have already started rebranding and working with the GP consortia so that nothing will change- except that there will be an extra level of bureaucracy to pay for.

But there is hope- and it involves thinking outside the box. In the article in the Reg we find an appalling catalogue of inefficiency regarding purchasing. Read this-

"Over the past 10 years the system, which operates along similar lines to systems available in major supermarkets, has been rolled out to departments with a stock value greater than £250,000."

Read it again. Simply by having a computerised bar code reading system this one hospital is saving thousands, possibly millions.

"Medwell says that the trauma, spinal and neurology theatres at Leeds General Infirmary saved £500,000 over three years by cutting the purchase of excess stock. The figure represents a one-off saving, but as he puts it: "You then live off the fat of the land as you use up the stock and your ordering patterns become much more stable."

The trust claims that savings are also made against the costs of running a time-consuming manual system. "We are talking about saving nursing time, stock control and stock checking which are a real bane in the life of most nurses," says Medwell."

So why hasn't it been tried before? Every supermarket chain has computer systems in place that can give information on the stock levels of every item on the shelves. It can use this information to plan deliveries, buy the correct amounts and cut waste. The supermarkets could not function without these systems.

So why do I bring this up? It's time to think outside the box. Tesco or one of the major chains should trial their systems in one or more hospital. Because the systems are proven technology they should be easy to install and get running. No more wasting countless millions re-inventing the wheel, which is what is currently happening. Once the system is up and running the savings will be apparent. Tesco did not get to be the size it is by wasting money. Then roll it out across the country.

One final thing. No-one currently working on NHS IT schemes or responsible for ordering them should be let within 500 miles of the pilot unless they are invited.

The money-pit that is the NHS can be reformed, but it will take political will and commercial acumen.

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