NHS Expenses Cloud Service Helps County Durham PCT Identify 18% Mileage Claim Savings

More accurate mileage claims using NHS Expenses leads to cost savings of £30k in 6 months. 

•    Challenge: Remove paper forms and the challenges of a manual process.
•    Solution: NHS Expenses from Software Europe
•    Results: More accurate mileage claims leads to cost savings of £30k in 6-months.

In 2012 County Durham Primary Care Trust closed as part of the Health and Social Care Bill Reforms. NHS Expenses has now been taken up by County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust who are one of the largest integrated care providers in England, serving a population of around 600,000 people. Their Vision Right person, right place, right time, first time 24/7.

Paper forms and manual process challenges

From its founding in 2006 until March 2012, a year before its closure, County Durham Primary Care Trust [Durham PCT], was using paper forms to manage the expenses for its team. Typical of many PCT business processes at the time, it presented a number of challenges for employees, managers and the Payroll Department. 

Data Accuracy 

There was no control on the accuracy of data added to expenses forms by staff at the point of entry, so mistakes would happen whilst forms were being completed. Inaccurate or incomplete data from employees would result in forms being returned to managers by the Payroll Department, putting pressure on their limited available time liaising with employees to manage corrections. 

The rules for acceptable and unacceptable expenses claims are complex in any organisation and were not well understood by employees without keeping the expenses policy to hand. This resulted in confusion and the submission of inaccurate forms. 

Wasted Time 

Submitted forms spent excessive time in transit – from employee to manager to Payroll Department - and were at risk of being lost in the process. Managers had very little time to authorise and return paper forms, before being under pressure by the Payroll Department, which also needed time to check and input claims. This resulted in further queries between staff, their Managers and the Payroll Department.

Governance & Compliance

With the paper forms only limited validation or ‘checks’ were possible, and it was very difficult to detect errors. This did not facilitate good auditing or management reports. 

Managing the Trusts ‘Duty of Care’ obligations including the recording of employees’ business insurance and valid driving licences, necessary when driving for business purposes, was another administrative burden of the paper-based system.

The claim forms had to be retained for 6-years and off-site safe storage costs were incurred. 

Automation and efficiency through NHS Expenses

In 2012, a year before its closure as part of the 2011 Health and Social Care Bill Reforms [and subsequent establishment of Clinical Commissioning Groups in the region] Durham PCT went live with NHS Expenses cloudservice from Software Europe. 

The service was customised to meet the Trust’s specific requirements; linked directly to its policy, to improve claims accuracy. It was live and operational with staff submitting claims within just a few weeks. It was managed on an ongoing basis by a small team of staff in the Payroll Department. 

Within days, the real time mileage validation postcode-to-postcode functionality introduced consistency and accuracy of miles claimed, resulting in immediate savings for the PCT. 

For the first time, employees could submit claims securely over the internet from work or home, safe in the knowledge that all submissions were tracked and recorded. The service was paperless with instantaneous transmission of claims to managers for authorisation, then to the Payroll Department for payment. Employees received email notifications of status whilst each person in the chain also received an email confirming action required. 

As an electronic system, the Service alleviated the need for hand delivered expenses claims to Payroll Services, and paper storage reduced as use of the service grew. 

The service added layers of automated validation and quality control. Staff could no longer inadvertently make duplicate claims. All actions by employees, managers and the Payroll Department were logged, and it became possible to produce a complete record of expenses claims activity. 

The service provided advanced reporting capabilities. For the first time, the team could analyse expenses information at all levels and provide information for FOI, the Green Agenda and other ad hoc requests. 

Lastly, the service interfaced with ESR ‘central data hub’ helping maintain the accuracy of staff data in NHS Expenses with efficient transfer of the payment data to ESR. 

Results 

Ian Stiff, formally Head of Payroll at Durham PCT says: “The NHS Expenses service helped Durham PCT to identify 15-18 per cent savings of previous mileage expenses. This was achieved by using the post code to post code technology, to produce accurate and consistent mileage claims. 

PCT results leads to Foundation Trusts adoption of service

NHS Expenses has now been taken up by Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust. The Foundation Trust uses NHS Expenses to manage the mileage claims of around 8,000 staff. The Foundation Trust has, in a short space of time, moved from a total paper based system to 98% of all mileage claims being processed using the NHS Expenses system. 

NHS Expenses service is also the most widely used cloud service in the NHS with more than 150 deployments including Clinical Services Units [CSUs] and Clinical Commissioning Groups [CCGs].

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