August 7 2019 - With increasing innovation and investment in technology, the NHS is currently in the
throes of real digital transformation. The move to a paperless NHS is one part of the process that has been well documented
but so have the doubts about when it will happen. While many industry voices agree that the NHS needs to cut out the paper,
drive efficiencies and harness digital technology, there is a lack of consensus around when this will be achieved - estimations
vary from 2020 to 2027.
However, it's important to put this into context. As the nation's single
biggest employer, with 1.7 million
workers across the UK, the NHS is the fifth-largest workforce in the world. With this size and scale comes a myriad of
processes which all need to be automated and digitised, especially for back office functions such as HR and payroll.
Delving into digital processes
Streamlining HR and payroll workflows with accurate and auditable processes is a key part of the journey to a
paperless NHS. With the recent launch of NHS Digital's Internet First policy and the publication of its
transferring to cloud-based systems has become even more pertinent for NHS organisations. The move to public internet is all
about supporting the growing need for health professionals to work flexibly and remotely, whilst also reducing costs. In this
case, when staff aren't physically able to fill in forms or manually sign off paperwork, bottlenecks are created which can
lead to payroll problems further down the line.
Delays, duplicate or lost forms can have a huge impact on an organisation's bottom line and researchers from
the London School of Economics estimate that up to £63 million a year is wasted in overpayments, because systems are
failing to keep track of staff. With changes to salaries, new joiners, movers and leavers, it's important that this information
is captured in real-time by the HR and payroll teams.
More functionality than a paper form
For HR teams manually managing recruitment and overtime paperwork this is a burden that consumes significant
hours, drives up costs and reduces productivity. Increasingly NHS HR and payroll departments are looking to eliminate these
obstacles. Many sites such as Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Colchester University Hospital have taken steps
to tackle the issue by replacing traditional paper-based forms with electronic ones.
Built around the organisation's requirements and current approval process, e-Forms transform existing
paper-based forms into easy and efficient processes - but they can also bring much more functionality. By integrating with
the existing Electronic Staff Record (ESR) information is automatically populated into the forms, significantly reducing
the need for staff to manually enter data and making tasks such as updating change of details more accurate and
Additionally, important documentation such as offer letters, employment contracts, induction checklists and
bank details can be completed digitally and immediately sent to the HR and payroll teams for processing. With full visibility
of documentation, managers are able to track the progress of forms, reducing uncertainly and repeated calls to the department
they are dealing with. This level of transparency also allows information to be communicated quickly and accurately across
departments. For instance, changes to salaries and termination forms can be automatically routed to the payroll teams so
that payments can be amended accordingly.
e-Forms also offer a more streamlined approach to overcoming the potential errors that come with deciphering
people's handwriting, losing pieces of paper, or forgetting to fill out key details.
With a high level of demand across the country for healthcare professionals, NHS organisations regularly have
additional shifts available for their staff. However, manually managing this process and sorting through paper timesheets is
not only time consuming for HR teams but on occasion, can lead to errors in repayment. By implementing automated workflows for
processes such as overtime, HR teams are given real-time visibility of all outgoings and forms can be quickly authorised.
Moreover, e-Form solutions like
GreenLight Workforce prevent lost paperwork which in turn reduces the number of duplicate
forms that are submitted by staff and authorised by HR and payroll. Helping to streamline workflows with accurate and
auditable process, minimising the risk of delays and overpayments.
Given the overall size of the NHS workforce, even the smallest oversights in payroll accuracy can have a
significant impact on the bottom line. With a need to deliver transformational change and ongoing efficiency gains,
organisations need to continue their pursuit towards a paperless NHS. Harnessing technology such as e-Forms not only reduces
the administrative burden on healthcare professionals but also increases visibility, streamlines workflows and ensures
accurate payment. Ultimately, helping the NHS to save money which can then be used to deliver better patient outcomes.