Up to £1 billion could be saved by the NHS over the next three years through productivity improvements to mental health and community health services, including through the use of technology and better staff rotas.
A report led by NHS productivity champion Lord Carter highlighted how community health services should play a much bigger role in providing more joined-up care for elderly patients, which would reduce both unnecessary hospital admissions and patients’ length of stay.
It found that NHS staff working in the community spend just a third of their working day with patients – their remaining time is spent travelling between patients or performing administrative duties.
Other findings included how a quarter of staff who work in community nursing services, providing care to mainly elderly patients in their homes, are still using paper to record patient notes.
This means many staff are forced to travel back to their offices to update patient records.
Lord Carter, a non-executive director at NHS Improvement, said: “The NHS is facing one of the tightest financial periods in its history while treating more patients than ever before.
“That is why it is so important we make the most of every last penny in the service.
“Community and mental health staff are the backbone of our NHS, providing fantastic care to patients under significant pressure.
“But when visiting trusts, we often found staff frustrated by poor IT software, problems with rostering and irritating internal processes which prevented them from having the time with patients they wanted.
“By fully grasping mobile technology and driving a more standardised ‘offer’ from community health services for patients, the NHS can provide better, more joined-up care for all patients in the community while also reducing costs and unnecessary burdens on staff.
“Fully implementing these recommendations should help limit unnecessary hospital admissions and the length of time patients stay in hospital, and support the full delivery of the Five Year Forward View.”
Responding to the report, head of policy at NHS Providers Amber Jabbal, said: “These findings address many of the concerns we raised this week in our report on NHS community services.
“Above all, these services need adequate funding, and action to address staff shortages.
“We need to seize the opportunities presented by the push for integrated care and the Prime Minister’s commitment to increase long term health and care funding to make good on past promises, and bring NHS community services centre stage.”