NHS administration is terminally ill
7th August 2008
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NHS administration is terminally ill by David Callam

THE NATIONAL Health Service is an island of antiquity whose administration owes more to Bob Cratchet than Bill Gates.

The idea struck me forcibly last week during a consultation at Mayday University Hospital in Thornton Heath.

I watched with fascination as a senior doctor painstakingly filled in report forms by hand - occasionally consulting a desktop computer and grumbling about the pedantic nature of the software.

In fact, the paper chase started when I booked in at reception, where a clerk fed my name into a computer before turning to find my manila-bound case notes in a filing trolley and adding them to an already precarious pile on the counter between us.

It reminded me that on a previous visit to the hospital I had spent ten minutes sitting on a window sill in the main corridor of the old block and noting that many of those who passed me were armed with these manila folders.

My fascination is that I know of no business - and the NHS is Britain's largest - that would waste so much money on paper-based administration; particularly when there are tried and tested electronic alternatives available at relatively modest prices.

To those who refuse to see the NHS as a business I would remind you of the acres of land it manages, the thousands it employs and the billions of pounds of our money it spends.

Imagine banks or supermarkets processing their administration in such a Dickensian fashion - how much would we now be paying for current accounts or chipolatas?

Can any large business know how well it is working if it doesn't have real-time management systems in place? Which begs the question: how cost-effective are such assets as operating theatres and scanners?

Do we need to keep buying more or could we make better use of those we already have? Would you really object to having an operation or a scan in the late evening or over a week-end?

Reducing equipment costs would leave more money to spend on patients.

We need to give doctors the environment in which to practice their profession - we will do that most effectively when we create a 21st century medical administration, rather than wrestling with one that has its origins in the 1800s.

Croydon Eye is a weekly commentary written exclusively for The Best of Croydon by David Callam and posted in the blog section every Thursday.

David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit www.callamedia.co.uk

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