A report from consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers has concluded that the NHS could save billions of pounds a year if “ambitious, proactive NHS organisations” improved their use of information technology.
In a report published ahead of a speech by health secretary Jeremy Hunt this evening, which will call for a paperless NHS by 2018, PwC says the NHS could save £4 billion more than the government’s estimate in its NHS information strategy.
It argues that around half of this - £1.7 billion - could be generated from four actions, including the roll-out of e-prescribing in hospitals and the Electronic Prescription Service in primary care.
Other ‘priority’ actions include using information to improve post-operative care and commissioning and “ensuring the widespread provision of complete and accurate clinical and attendance information to clinicians and carers at the point of care, via clinical portals or other solutions.”
The rest of the ‘additional’ savings - £2.7 billion - are assumed to come from the NHS falling into line with the government’s wider ‘digital first’ agenda.
The ‘Power of Information’ strategy, published in May last year, came with an impact assessment that argued the NHS could realise savings of around £5 billion if it was implemented.
PwC appears to have been asked to revisit these assumptions in December, and to conduct a desk search for evidence of the financial and other benefits of adopting further IT systems.
Its researchers concluded their rapid review at the start of January, and identified ‘additional actions’ that the NHS could take.
Beyond the consultancy’s ‘priority’ and ‘digital first’ actions, these include making better use of cost and quality information, providing better choice information to patients, using IT to drive down the cost of negligence and litigation.
PwC admits that additional research would be needed to determine the exact impact of these actions; but admits that another ‘rapid review’ of digital first has “stressed the difficulty of accessing these benefits.”
In a section headed “the delivery challenge” the consultancy says that getting the value out of IT investments will require “concerted action” from health and social care organisations.
It says “funds to cover one-off investment costs” in both new technology and new processes will also be needed, along with “robust governance procedures” to make sure projects are properly implemented.
While the report conspicuously fails to mention any of the NHS’ other IT strategies, or the ten year, £12.7 billion National Programme for IT in the NHS – of which the EPS was part – it acknowledges that some of its ideas would take “five-ten years or more” to deliver their benefits.
This will flesh out commitments in the NHS mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board to get interoperable systems into hospitals and other healthcare organisations by 2015, and to give patients access to them.
A consultation on patient access is promised later this year. However, privacy campaigners have already attacked the government's latest move, arguing that the consent and confidentiality problems will be insurmountable.
© 2013 EHealth Media.
Double Whammyishafto 116 weeks ago
Would this be the same PriceWaterhouseCoopers consultancy that makes millions advising companies how to minimise their UK tax bills, thereby reducing by billions the money available to spend on the NHS and other public services?
Batch Numbers and Dispensed Drugsgeorge385 116 weeks ago
I implemented an acute sector Pharmacy HISS system way back in 1990's that was capable of capturing (by scanning bar-code or manual entry), tracking batches from receipt into the pharmacy stores and to patient as a dispensed item.
Modern systems can do this as well to varying degrees - its simply a case that the client chooses not to utilise this functionality.
I'm sure any Pharmacy solution vendors out there reading this that will be able to verify this - it's certainly the case for acute sector systems - but I'm uncertain about the current retail dispensing systems out there today?
To Georgedaryl.mullen 116 weeks ago
I've no doubt EPSr2 brings benefits to the patient as do online services, which is why we offer them. But it's a myth that it saves GP practices money, in fact it costs money in staff time this is based on direct experience as early adopters of this technology. The premise of the PWC Report is that we will save money yet offers no detail on how practices will actually achieve this.
Utter driveldaryl.mullen 116 weeks ago
So initiatives like eprescribing and EPS will save money. Well guess what we have EPSr2 full online px ordering result checking and online booking. Savings diddly squat in fact it's cost us staff time.
Benefitsgeorge385 116 weeks ago
The Electronic Prescription Service offers me - THE PATIENT - benefits, and actually the retail Pharmacist as well including not having to count through 10,000 FP10's at the end of each month.
ePrescribing - depending on the solution selected and the quality of/ resources provided for implementation ePrescribing should deliver patient safety and quality improvement benefits. As these benefits improve - so will the finances to a varying degree.
There’s also the cost of patient litigation – and again ePrescribing should bring quality, safety and therefore cost saving benefits here as well.
When will e-prescribing include batch numbers..Mary Hawking 116 weeks ago
linked to individual prescriptions?
As a GP, I get MHRA alerts about batches of particular drugs being withdrawn: I was horrified to learn, a few years ago, that batch numbers are not recorded against individual prescriptions either in hospitals or high street pharmacies.
Hopefully this will be remedied in new prescribing systems and implementations.
A safety issue.
Waste of money thendrijackson 117 weeks ago
If I look at my organisation, how can we save money? Well depending on your department the staff cost is anything from 75 to 85% of the budget. Given the level of inflation in the non pay budget the opportunities for savings are relatively small - though we are chasing them. You are then left with saving money by losing staff. So if you can reduce workload then yes we could save money.
Let me think here that could happen...on the wards..no we know that leads to disaster. Computer systems keeping patients out of hospital? Not a good track record so far.
So fascinated to know where this will make such big savings - could it be in the non clinical overhead cost maybe?
I wonder...Contrarian 117 weeks ago
how much money could the taxpayer, government and NHS save if it used it's own resource rather than expensive management consultancies.
Great we have an independent view, but did we need one, do we believe it and what do PwC do better than someone could have done who works in the NHS, who knows the NHS...
If we're "stripping fat" lets get rid of the consultancies, and I'd include DFI and others in that - they cost so much more than our own expertise.
Laughable sourcesAnne Onnymous 117 weeks ago
One might expect a document intended to influence national policy would cite evidence of independently evaluated case studies, but alas, no.
The usual mix of aspirational projections about current or recent projects, whose true cost/benefits have yet to be realised, usually written by the project manager or sponsor.
It even sets great store by articles in the Grauniad and msn news, which look more like advertorials than serious review.
I can't find a single example in the report of an implementation that is now embedded into mainstream practice, independently evaluated, and proven to deliver true net savings on anything like the scale cited.
Which is a bit silly when many of the readers of this site could have provided real examples that do offer a convincing argument. But I suppose Mr Hunt doesn't want to hear it from those of us who've been sweating blood to deliver it for years. More reassuring when it's on Blue-chip headed paper.
Worse than laughable - expensive & misleadingMary Hawking 117 weeks ago
We keep being told that we are in "unprecentedly hard financial times".
Does commissioning this type of report - which will obviously be regarded - rightly - by everyone who knows anything about the topic (or spin) as not informative, superficial and related to a politician's apparent need for support before a speech represent a lack of understanding of the financial situation, the meaning of Value For Money or even political capital?
Basically, can the NHS/DH/country afford it?
integrationCharlieYoung 117 weeks ago
For all the numerous IT and digital programmes and strategies and polciy drivers in existance, the big numbers PwC are pointing to will be hard to realise until these initiatives are streamlined into a meaningful roadmap. Otherwise we're at risk of a repeat of the National Programme for IT over-runs, only this time the money will be lost at the local level...
Whose budget paid for this report?Mary Hawking 117 weeks ago
Here at the front-line we are being told to make cuts of 20 billion over 4 years. (odd how the figure never decreases - even when the NHS gives 3bn back to the Treasury).
We now have a report from PCW (and share Derek Bain's concerns) which appears to have been produced in less than a month - assuming no time off for Christmas and the New Year - and so conveniently gets launched (with fanfares) just before Jeremy Hunt gives a speech.
Who is paying for these "consultants" and this hurried report?
It must be making a hole in front-line savings/amount returned to the Treasury - and would seem to go against any view that the use of "consultants" should be limited to projects for which they were useful.
Could we ask for the Business Case for commissioning this report?