Headlines: August 27th, 2002

Finding ways of making back office systems, such as finance, human resources and procurement, work smarter, is a key element of the NHS Modernisation programme. The National Shared Services Initiative aims to introduce standardised systems across the NHS to make the collection of data quicker, easier and more accurate.Some 600 NHS finance departments use different methods, processes and software and the result is that information varies in quality and is difficult to collate. More than 40 NHS Trusts are now taking part in a pilot programme to test the concept of Shared Financial Service Centres and two pilot centers have been set up. The centres are working with private sector suppliers and NHS staff to develop new and innovative ways for managing NHS finance. The interim system, which is provided by Oracle, is being tested and the first wave of NHS trusts will migrate to the pilot centres early in 2003

The Electronic Staff Record Project involves the delivery of a new national integrated human resources and payroll system for the whole of the NHS. The new IT package will replace a range of outdated systems that NHS employers have been using for over a quarter of a century to handle pay and personnel records. Employment records will be transferable between organizations making it easier to deal with the estimated 200,000 staff who transfer from other health service employers each year. Approval has now been given for the systems design.The NHS uses a wide variety of manual and IT systems to purchase non-clinical supplies and many processes are inefficient. A Finance and e-Commerce project is being developed to integrate finance and procurement systems.

The project aims to cut the cost of financial processing and the time spent by staff on producing data. It is estimated that it will produce up to 300 million pounds in savings that can be used elsewhere in the NHS. Analysis of questionnaires from Finance Directors about how systems are managed now, will start in September and the data will be used in the preparation of the Business Case.