Saving the NHS millions – achieving huge economies of scale with innovation and best practice

| minute read


As the world’s largest publicly-funded health service, the NHS offers a comprehensive system of healthcare for all UK residents. It employs over 1.7 million people and deals with around 1 million patients every 36 hours.

The challenge

Understandably, operational efficiency is a priority for all NHS organisations – yet the savings must be achieved without undermining the delivery of a world class health service. In 2005, the Department of Health chose to meet this challenge by forging a unique joint venture commercial partnership with Sopra Steria.

NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) was set up to deliver back office functions in a shared services model that would bring economies of scale, cost savings and best practice business processes to participating NHS trusts.

The solution

Initially providing finance and accounting back office processing, NHS SBS now provides its clients with a wide range of value-added services. These award-winning services enable NHS trusts to focus on strategic decision making, business improvement activities and release funds which can be reallocated to frontline care.

The services embrace the more usual back office processes on top of F&A, such as payroll and pensions and operational procurement, as well as specialist finance services including VAT support, capital purchasing and project management expertise.

Our culture of innovation and customer focus rapidly brings new services into play. For example, when the UK Treasury announced the VAT rate change, adjustments were made so trusts could move seamlessly to the new rate. Similarly, when NHS Trusts needed to introduce auto enrolment of work pensions, NHS SBS became the ‘go-to’ expert and supported clients by handling multiple auto-enrolment staging delivery.

Service excellence is paramount and by operating a shared services delivery model, NHS SBS is also able to deliver economies of scale. For example, NHS SBS is the largest Oracle shared platform user in the UK, enabling clients to share data across the business without the cost of numerous Oracle licences. This capability was reinforced with the award of a contract to provide the Integrated Single Financial Environment (ISFE) to NHS England as part of a strategy to replace a legacy of systems with one robust accounting platform across the whole commissioning landscape.

The results

NHS SBS clients benefit from the efficiency and cost savings made through innovation and sharing of best practice. Access to accurate and timely management information improves financial controls and helps meet the demand for accountability. Highlights include:

  • Finance and accounting team process over £170 billion of NHS payments annually.
  • Largest provider of payroll and pension services to the NHS – paying 300,000 NHS employees and processing over 2.5 million payroll transactions per annum.
  • Savings opportunities of £350 million in procurement costs identified.
I am a convert to shared services. In my early days as a finance director I wanted to control payroll, accounts payable etcetera so they were kept in-house, but now I don't see that as my core business. The business of a health care provider is providing healthcare, not managing the complexity of payroll or the accounts function. Things like that are better done at scale. I challenge any organisation to provide the same services cheaper in house. 

Jonathan Tringham, Director of Finance, Staffordshire Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust



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