The Carter Report challenge: delivering NHS efficiency


The Carter Report was published last week. Lord Carter, who has a good track record having already produced an industry changing report into pathology services, was asked to look at NHS hospital productivity and efficiency and make recommendations to help achieve the latest challenging NHS efficiency targets.

Cynics can say that reports such as this can be too general and don’t really make a difference. And indeed reading sentences like the following can feed that view:

“We are therefore recommending that organisations should adopt a single integrated performance framework for performance, centred around customers, workforce and function”

As Homer would say, “Meh”. (That’s the Springfield one, not the Greek one.) The idea of having a plan to help you keep an eye on what is happening doesn’t really get the innovation juices flowing.

But then you read this:

We were struck by the immaturity of Trusts’ use of such technology from e-Rostering systems, e-Prescribing and basic electronic catalogues for procurement”…

And then

“NHS Improvement needs to incentivise trusts to fully utilise their existing digital systems, and where necessary, enable them to access some of the Spending Review commitment to invest in digital technologies.”

This is more like it. The good Lord Carter earning his keep by saying something that is a little harder to take. Trusts are “immature”. Systems we all saw as revolutionary and real solutions to long standing problems are just not being used correctly. Trusts need to be given a reason and capabilities to use them properly, and, whisper it, given some cash to do it right.

This is far more interesting. The NHS for too long has jumped from one IT solution to another hoping against hope that this one will be the answer; not seemingly learning from the last one that wasn’t.

Lord Carter is saying that, in effect, we need to grow up. We need to fully use the IT capabilities and digital possibilities around us. And we need to be given some encouragement to do so – and in the end given some money to make it happen.

Where is your Trust in this?

Can you hold your head up and proclaim that you have a mature attitude towards your digital products and a clear and practical plan to fully exploit the IT opportunities?

If so, well done. (Have a look at the Devon Partnership NHS Trust Information Management and Technology Review case study.)

But for the majority of the NHS this seems like a wake-up call. But at least it is a wake-up call with support and money attached.

Will it happen? Watch this space. But at last someone is trying to tell it like it is.

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