Carbon-cutting technologies, an electronic bed management system, improved patient transport services, and equipment managed service contracts have all been singled out as key ways in which the NHS can make the massive spending cuts it needs to achieve over the next decade.
The winners of the 2012 Health Service Journal (HSJ) Efficiency Awards were revealed this week, with prizes handed out in 15 categories celebrating efficiency in key areas including procurement, information technology and estates management.
Commenting on the annual event, HSJ editor, Alastair McLellan, said: “2012 was the year the truth about the NHS efficiency drive became crystal clear to even the most casual observer. This was no dash to a 2015 finish line. The state of public finances made it clear that the need for unprecedented efficiency gains would last the decade.
Those working in areas such as procurement and estates management are now increasingly getting the boardroom attention they deserve. The same factors also mean that some of the NHS’s most sacred cows are having to justify their place in the herd
“The efficiency revolution – and these awards – are demonstrating how departments and functions too often given insufficient focus have significant contributions to make. Those working in areas such as procurement and estates management are now increasingly getting the boardroom attention they deserve. The same factors also mean that some of the NHS’s most sacred cows are having to justify their place in the herd. Advances in medicines management and clinical support services are challenging practices that have remained untouched for decades.
This is an outstanding example of how an innovative approach to procurement can have much wider benefits for service delivery reducing costs and improving quality for patients
The winner of the Efficiency in Estates Management gong was County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust for the development and introduction of a new a la carte menu at Darlington Memorial Hospital. The judges said of the innovation: “This is a radically more efficient way of delivering the service, which has been achieved with no extra resource, simply personal time and commitment. The work has not only made recurrent savings and increased productivity but, importantly, it has improved patient care and satisfaction.”
Stuart Wray, head of catering at the hospital, said the initiative was piloted in the maternity unit at the hospital. He added: "We were finding on the maternity ward that there was such a fast turnover of patients the old system wasn't working as efficiently as we thought it could. So working with patients and staff we designed a new a la carte menu which includes a much more varied choice, but which is also designed around catering for the needs of a short-stay patient. Meals can be ordered without such a long lead-in time and there are standardised portions. We're delivering an excellent standard of food and have received very positive feedback. Since the new menu was introduced we have also reduced our waste by 9%.
"Following the success of the pilot scheme we're now rolling out the menu to all of the wards in the hospital. Each ward will have its own menu which has been tailored to suit the patients of that area. We will continue to review the menus and feedback on a monthly basis to make sure we can keep achieving these high standards."
This is a radically more efficient way of delivering the service, which has been achieved with no extra resource, simply personal time and commitment
The title of Efficiency in Procurement went to Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which has cut the amount it spends on laparoscopy instruments and improved throughput with the introduction of a managed service. The trust has linked up with B Braun Medical to develop a surgical instrumentation managed service contract, known as the Aesculap RENU. The judging panel said: “This is an outstanding example of how an innovative approach to procurement can have much wider benefits for service delivery reducing costs and improving quality for patients.”
Commenting on the award, Karen Rowland, Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s business theatre manager, said: “Tameside Hospital is proud and extremely honoured to have been recognised in this way for a project that not only directly contributes to the quality of patient care, but also delivers significant financial benefits for the trust.
“In the current climate NHS trusts across the UK health economy have to find innovative ways to make savings without compromising the quality of patient care. Our system, Aesculap RENU, has enabled surgeons to have access to increased numbers of quality surgical instrument sets that have contributed to reducing surgical procedure times and delivering better patient outcomes, which ultimately has reduced inpatient hospital stays.”
And Annette Crowe, marketing manager for managed service solutions and power systems at B. Braun Medical, told BBH : “The service has proved extremely cost effective for Tameside Hospital during a time when the NHS is facing huge financial pressures, so it is fantastic that it has been recognised in this way.
Advances in medicines management and clinical support services are challenging practices that have remained untouched for decades
“We are hopeful this hugely successful scheme will become a model for partnerships with other trusts ensuring that clinicians’ needs are fully met and a high standard of patient care is constantly delivered.”
The prize for Efficiency in Information Technology was won by NHS Forth Valley for its deployment of a bespoke electronic bed management system on acute and community hospital wards. The move has cut the number of staff needed to monitor bed flow and utilisation by half and is helping to ensure patients are housed in the most appropriate environment. The judges said: “The benefit in terms of timeliness was well demonstrated and evidence of benefits around shared information is persuasive. The project is highly transferable.”
And the winners of the Energy Efficiency award was the Royal United Hospital Bath’s ‘Team Green’. Their efforts to introduce technologies such as combined heat and power, LED lighting and building control systems have helped achieve a 25% reduction in emissions and have saved the trust £800,000 a year.
The other awards handed out on the night were
- Efficiency in Clinical Support Services Winner, the Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s pathology department staff for facilitating clinical change by streamlining laboratory medicine services
- Efficiency in Commissioning Support Services Winner, NHS Croydon for improvements to patient navigation services aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary outpatient appointments. Their efforts saved 564 appointments across seven specialities in May 2012 alone
- Efficiency in Financial Services Winner Winner, NHS Dorset for its indepth evaluation of personal health budgets
- Efficiency in Training and Development Winner, NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Teaching Primary Care Collaborative for the North West Core Skills Programme, collaborative approach which helps to cut out duplication in training
- Efficiency in Transportation and Logistics Winner, Coperforma for its work taking over the patient transport services contract on behalf of Basingstoke and North Hampshire NHS Foundation Trust, now Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust. The move has reduced costs by 46% and increased user satisfaction to more than 95%
- Efficiency in Medicines Management Winner, NHS Tees, which has saved £2.4m by using a resource pack of tools to optimise medicines management
- Workforce Efficiency Winner, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust for the introduction of an ambulatory pathway for breast cancer surgery patients
- Communicating Efficiency Winner, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for its Love Arts festival promoting the impact of the arts in improving mental health
- Efficiency in Acute Service Redesign Winner, The Pan Birmingham Cancer Network and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust for the introduction of communication alerts which warn oncology specialists when known cancer patients are admitted into hospital
- Efficiency in Administrative and Clerical Services Winner, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for the introduction of mobile tablet devices, a move that has saved an hour a day for every member of the team and given community healthcare workers more time to spend with patients
- Efficiency in Community Service Redesign NHS Sussex for the new Sussex Patient Transport Bureau, which is expected to save more than 14.3m on contract costs over next next three year
To find out more about the awards, click here