In this interview, CEO of Software Europe, Neil Everatt speaks with Sue Childerstone, Head of Payroll at Northumbria Healthcare Trust on why other NHS organisations should move to a cloud-based Expenses system and away from paper.
Neil Everatt: Before taking advantage of cloud technology, your expense claims were done manually – you had upwards of 5,000 claims per month that were all on paper. That’s a lot of pieces of paper to process!
Sue Childerstone: It is! There is still an ongoing myth that the health service, and the wider public sector, are slower to adopt and use new cloud technologies than the commercial sector. However, our own experience shows that in reality the NHS is leading the way in adopting technologies that can help identify savings and efficiencies along with supporting the move away from paper. In fact, 67% of the NHS are now using Software Europe’s cloud technology to manage expenses.
NE: Using a paper-based system led to missed payments, human error, not to mention the huge amount of storage needed for all that paper…what did that mean for the payment team?
SC: It was definitely a case of simply muddling through. One of the largest areas of conflict in the NHS expenses process – mileage – is a big issue, in terms of wrongly added up journeys. In addition to mileage, an NHS worker who travels will have invoices, bills, and receipts piling up on email, paper and elsewhere. To be able to automatically take these and populate an online expenses system themselves saves a huge amount of admin work, rather than sending in reams of receipts to payroll to muddle through.
Now, cloud expenses software completely gets rid of the ‘guestimate’ loophole – which happens when claimants round up journeys, i.e. 30 miles for a 28.5 mile journey for example. In addition, the software can explain how and why journeys are routed a specific way [usually the shortest, as opposed to the quickest between two locations]. The grey areas in what can and can’t be claimed are no longer, and there is a clear mark between acceptable and unacceptable.
NE: What do you believe now?
SC: For the NHS, taking control of its expenses is now easier than ever thanks to cloud and software-as-a-service technologies. It’s not just my opinion, the proof is in the pudding – investing the time and energy now to report on your expenses spend can, and will help the NHS to save thousands.
NE: Is this technology a step forward to a paperless NHS?
SE: I think it’s entirely possible that the future of staff expenses will be paperless. With the advent of lower-cost, high quality scanning facilities built into mobile devices, good quality scans are now possible. A good expenses management system can also help collect the supporting data needed for accurate reimbursement, help you to reduce expenses costs, speed up the entire process for claimant and payroll and increase VAT recovery.
NE: Of course, we know there are plenty of companies out there adopting cloud Expenses technology, however, equally there are plenty left who have not yet embraced the trend. What is your advice to those companies?
SC: The rules are now clear and the technology is available to make electronic storage of staff expenses receipts possible.
The time is now for the NHS, and other public sector organisations to take the plunge and take advantage of the new and helpful technology out there to improve expense processes.