Ambulance Trust Uses Cloud Technology To Modernise Expense Claims

NHS Expenses removes 1600 sheets of paper from expense claims process each month. Saves 4-days per month of staff time spent processing forms and keying data into ESR.

  • Challenge: Reduce the laborious process for staff, managers and payroll.
  • Solution: NHS Expenses from Software Europe.
  • Results: Reduction in paper moving around the organisation, greater visibility and more accurate claims.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) provides ambulance services to people in the SouthWest of England. In February 2013 it acquired neighbouring Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust (GWAS). In its enlarged form, more than 4,000 staff have responsibility for the provision of ambulance services across an area of 10,000 square miles and a population of 5.3 million.

Claims Burden

Up until 2013, SWASFT employees were using expense forms created using MS Excel to submit claims for mileage, subsistence and other items purchased during their duties. Once completed, those forms were printed for submission to a line manager for approval and ultimately onto payroll for payment. With staff spread across nearly 100 ambulance sites, it was a laborious process for all involved – staff, managers and payroll. 

Staff generally submitted claims once at month-end. This gave managers around 1-2 days to review claims before approving for payment. Managers provided updates to keep staff informed of the approvals process. 

Cloud Deployment

In April 2013, SWASFT went live with NHS Expenses from Software Europe. The solution is the mostly widely used cloud technology in the NHS by 67% of the NHS workforce across Trusts, CCGs and CSUs. 

“We wanted to start with a new expenses system in time for the new tax year,” says Mark Noble, Financial Controller, SWASFT. “We first cleansed and updated the staff data held in the NHS Electronic Staff Record [ESR] before connecting with NHS Expenses. We knew the bi-directional interface with ESR would remove any future need to duplicate data between both systems. 

In terms of getting staff up and running, we started with those working in our HQ, managers and anyone using a lease car. Once enrolled on the system, most people could use the system without difficulty. We did decide to get out and visit people face to face anyway, to explain the system and the change. 

Software Europe assisted us with presentations and support materials. The finance team travelled to the main 30 ambulance stations out of a total of 100.” 

SWASFT currently has 800-1000 of its staff submitting claims monthly through the system. 

Mark adds: “We’re using NHS Expenses on a 3-year annual licence with costs calculated against the number of claims we submit monthly. We haven’t really needed it yet, but the team at Software Europe provide support via a helpdesk and a 24-hour, 7-days per week emergency telephone number.” 

Staff now submit expense claims electronically at any time during the month for review by their line manager. Right now, SWASFT has opted for staff to put their paper receipts into a pre-paid envelope for posting to their line manager. In the future, it plans to introduce scanners at each ambulance station so that receipts can be emailed for approval.

Benefits

  • With an electronic claims system, there is a reduction in paper moving around the organisation; approximately 800 paper claims [two pages of paper each claim] removed per month. 
  • Employees using the system have greater visibility into the status of claims because of NHS Expense's audit logs. Staff can access the expenses system and track progress of their claim themselves. They no longer need to spend time confirming if the claim was received, approved and sent for payment. 
  • Managers feel less pressure and have more time to review, reject or approve claims because staff can submit claims at anytime during the month. 
  • Finance can now create reports within the system for managers to check, for example, reviewing outstanding expense claims after the 4th or 5th day of the month for approval. This replaces use of paperbased cheque requisition forms, which would need input from payroll, a cashier to raise the cheque and a manager to sign the cheque. With around 20 requests per month each taking approximately 5 hours to process, the new system is saving approximately 4-days per month in staff time . 
  • Equally, claims over 3-months old submitted for payment are automatically routed to the financial controller for approval, reducing burden on both managers and payroll. 
  • Following deployment, SWASFT has further customised NHS Expenses bringing continuous business benefits configuring it to remove the ‘miscellaneous” option from the list of selected expenses items. With the removal of this common ‘dumping ground’, claims are submitted more accurately so that managers can review and manage spend appropriately . 
  • The reporting function enables SWASFT to better manage mileage claims. The payroll team can review individual use of personal cars, for example, and if necessary implement a local pool car to reduce costs. 
  • The system also creates more accurate mileage claims because it provides automated postcode-to-postcode routing. SWASFT estimates that if NHS Expenses more accurately calculates each return journey distance between ambulance stations by just 1 mile and, with a conservative estimate of staff making two journeys per month, x 800 claims x 67p mile, SWASFT is saving £1,072 saving per month. 
  • A bi-directional interface between NHS Expenses and the NHS ESR ‘central data hub’ helps maintain the accuracy of staff data in NHS Expenses – such as changes of details, work address, mileage and vehicle details. Staff changes made in ESR are reflected in NHS Expenses greatly reducing duplication of work. Equally, expenses payment information entered to NHS Expenses is replicated in ESR replacing a previously manual and time-consuming process. 
  • Claimants can also use NHS Expense's ‘My Details’ page to view their own details in NHS ESR to check for accuracy, improve data integrity and ensure accurate reimbursement. 

Future

In the future, SWASFT is considering greater use of Software Europe’s mobile application Expenses Mobile. Available for use with major platforms and devices including iPhone®, Android™, BlackBerry®, and soon Windows Phone, it enables staff to record expenses on the move, scan receipts with camera functionality, check the Trust’s expenses policy and approve claims all whilst out of the office. SWASFT is particularly interested in using the app’s capability to harness smartphone GPS technology for greater accuracy of mileage routing. 

SWASFT will also expand its use of Software Europe’s GreenLight Workforce, an electronic system which replaces the paper-based forms the Trust uses, such as notification of new starters and leavers. GreenLight Workforce improves operational efficiency and therefore reduces costs.

Conclusion

SWASFT have not only removed 1600 sheets of paper from their expense claims process each month, but have been able to save 4-days per month of staff time spent processing cheque requisition forms and keying data into NHS ESR, reduce their spend on mileage claims and increase their staff happiness because claims are processed quicker. 

Software Europe’s NHS Expenses is the NHS’ most widely used cloud technology and we are extremely proud to offer a market-leading service that truly integrates into, and improves your business.

google+

linkedin

Book your Expenses personal demo!