Livewell Southwest saves money moving from paper to digital Expenses

Livewell Southwest saves money moving from paper to digital Expenses. 

  • Improved and modernised the entire expenses process  
  • Moved away from the burden of paper claims and receipts
  • Reduced time taken to process expenses and frees up payroll staff
  • Gathered expenses intelligence to help identify efficiencies 
  • Updated and improved expenses policy
  • Takes advantage of Expenses Mobile app
  • Made significant savings 

Background

Livewell Southwest (formerly known as Plymouth Community Healthcare), is the largest social enterprise providing NHS services in the UK. As a community interest company (CIC) it has no shareholders and pays no dividends and, having taken over Plymouth’s adult social care services in April 2015, it is a pioneer in health and social care integration.

The organisation was officially formed on 1st October 2011 as an independent health services provider, working as part of the NHS family in a similar way to GPs, dentists and pharmacies and offering community, physical and mental healthcare. 

With over 2700 employees across Plymouth, West Devon and the South Hams, Livewell Southwest had in excess of 500,000 face-to-face contacts in 2016.

Expenses history

As a community health organisation, Livewell Southwest has more than 800 employees regularly claiming expenses. Three members of full-time payroll staff used to spend a significant amount of time processing expenses for the company. With clinical teams travelling large distances during the course of their days and an entirely paper-based process for submitting expenses meant both claiming and reviewing claims was an arduous task.

Incorrect claims and errors were commonplace, duplicate claims and lost forms were a regular occurrence and communicating with claimants on the status of claims was difficult.

“On top of the challenges of lost forms or incorrect expense claims, the other issue we encountered was we didn’t have any real insight into what people were doing,” comments John Pascoe, Contract and Performance Manager at Livewell Southwest. “We didn’t have any intelligence on which teams or individuals were putting in the biggest claims and with so many claims submitted each month it was impossible to make any analysis of the data”.

It was not uncommon for expenses claims to be 2-3 pages for each employee, so sorting through and analysing potentially hundreds or thousands of claims each month was not possible.

Moving to cloud expenses

Having recognised the challenges faced in dealing with expenses, the decision was made to find an expenses provider to reduce the burden on the organisation. Having reviewed a number of competing products, Software Europe’s NHS Expenses was chosen and the solution was rolled out across the business in November 2012.

“The deployment all went to plan. In a previous role I was a trainer so I recognised that we’d need to arrange training for staff and insisted upon it. The technical implementation can go well but if staff don’t “buy” into the idea then in my experience things tends to go wrong,” comments Pascoe. 

Staff were advised ahead of the roll out of NHS Expenses about the coming changes and were offered the opportunity to use and demo the new system in workshops organised by Pascoe and his team.

Following the roll out of NHS Expenses, staff were given a three month ‘grace’ period to start using the new system before the complete switch from paper to Software Europe’s NHS Expenses was made. 

Pascoe comments: “We graduated employees away from what they were used to over a number of months so there wasn’t the additional pressure of having to process expenses and try to get their head around the new system immediately. That’s how we made the transition. For clinicians that don’t regularly use IT we recognised it could be a challenge to adjust to the new system and change in process, fortunately our workforce engaged well in the process and this didn’t prove a significant issue”. 

The claims process

Livewell Southwest originally allowed for 650 claimants per month, which has now grown to 820 - as a community-based organisation it has a lot of health visitors, district nurses, social care workers and other clinicians regularly travelling across Plymouth, Cornwall and Devon.

Staff are encouraged to login in every day to the Software Europe NHS Expenses site to enter mileage or enter trips via postcode input so the system can calculate mileage. At the end of the month these can then be submitted to managers to review and approve the claim.

“Our community based staff do a large amount of miles every week so it does take time to add their travel into the system. We recognise that the NHS Expenses Mobile app is good for recording and tracking their mileage automatically though, so we do push them to use the app first,” says Pascoe.

Livewell asks for scanned digital copies of receipts only, having taken Software Europe’s guidance that HMRC will accept digital copies

Once claims have been submitted with receipts attached, budget holders across different teams within the organisation become the approvers of expenses from their teams. Claims are submitted monthly and paid by BACS.

Updating policies

As the new system was rolled out, Livewell recognised that its current expenses policy wasn’t up to scratch, so it was rewritten to support the new solution. It was rewritten in line with the system to ensure that the policy was fair, easy to understand, and made claiming as simple as possible.

All policy changes are developed and reviewed by a policy ratification group to ensure that any changes that were and are made are fair and have been fully reviewed by the business.

The benefits

Following the successful implementation the Business Intelligence (BI) team was able to immediately begin identifying areas of highest usage and put in place changes to help improve processes.

Using data from Expenses Livewell identified that in some areas it would be more cost effective to provide pool cars for staff, saving the organisation money. 

Example below:

Livewell has introduced six pool cars for two community-based teams, which have a rental charge of £16,000 per year. This also includes insurance and fuel (based on previous years mileage).

On average the monthly travel and mileage claims for these two teams through NHS Expenses had totaled £3,000 per month, which equates to an annual cost of £36,000.

Livewell introduced the pool cars on the condition these were managed and that claims through NHS Expenses were only for exceptional circumstances, it built in £1,000 annual costs for this.

Summary for Annual saving

Pool cars £16,000
Exceptional claims £1,000
Total cost going forward for travel £17,000
Currently claimed through Expenses £36,000
Annual saving £19,000


 

 

 

Alongside the tangible savings to the business in terms of spend on travel expenses, the payroll teams no longer have to process hundreds of paper expenses, reducing the overall man hours required and allowing teams to focus on other business activities. The processing team who input the claims reduced from 3 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) to 1.2 WTE.

Working with Software Europe

On working with NHS Expenses and Software Europe, Pascoe comments: “[the system] is easy enough to manage internally and we can deal with all the technical elements. If there is a problem we can escalate it to Software Europe, which has a good system in place to address any issues. 

“They’re responsive to issues and they’re always available on the end of the phone. I enjoy working with them, we’ve got a good business relationship. I can’t say enough good things about Software Europe.” 

The future

There are plans to roll out and use Software Europe’s built-in Duty of Care module for NHS Expenses at a later date – which helps organisations comply with all legislation designed to keep employees safe on the road – and use of Software Europe’s updated and new NHS Expenses Mobile application, was launched in December 2016 and is being increasingly used by more staff throughout the organisation.

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