Reviewing the Carter Report – Absence Management Key to NHS Meeting Commitments

The final report from the Carter Review into NHS efficiency has just been released, and it makes for sobering reading, with headline grabbing findings including billions being wasted on inefficient use of staff, paying over the odds to suppliers, bedblocking, and a high reliance on agency workers. The report went on to say that hospitals in England could save £5bn a year of their £55bn budget by 2020 using measures such as cutting their running costs and reducing unacceptable variations in the quality of care that patients experience.

However, away from the headlines there were some intriguing findings that give a credibility to the accusations of high admin costs that are regularly levelled at the NHS, in particular relating to staff absence. The review found that sickness and absence rates varied from 3.1% to 5% amongst trusts while also recommending that administration costs be limited to 6% by 2020 – two issues which go hand-in-hand. Only last September Public Health England reported that NHS staff sickness and absence cost £2.4 billion before the cost of hiring agency staff to fill in gaps, or the cost of treatment was taken into consideration.

Commenting on the report Empactis board member David Frost, said: “Managing the risks and costs associated with employee health, absence and engagement in a unified and effective way is a significant challenge for countless organisations – the Carter Review shows us that it’s a big problem for the NHS too. If not properly managed, employee health and absence can have a huge impact on overall productivity and the business bottom line – which, in the NHS, is an issue of national importance.”

So why is this happening? And, more importantly, what can be done about it?

“The Carter Review’s points about variation in sickness absence between NHS trusts illustrate a problem that many large organisations face,” commented fellow Empactis board member Steve Boorman, “Without a clear strategy for supporting employee health, without proper clarity and unity in terms of how employee absence is managed, and without unification between disparate parts of an organisation, it’s all too easy for employee sickness and absence to become a serious problem. These structural and procedural issues are compounded by an aging workforce and the increase in conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, which collectively mean that the associated costs of sickness and absence management can very easily start to spiral out of control.”

Beyond the costs of staff absence to the NHS, the report also bought into stark focus the immense pressure the organisation is under as it struggles to cope with the increasing demands placed on it by the deteriorating state of health the nation finds itself in. This clearly has an impact on businesses, as they too will start to see rising absence and associated costs, resulting from poor health.

Mathew Bergman-Smith, CEO of Empactis, says: “What is clear from the report is that, in addition to the huge organisational changes required to make the NHS sustainable, there needs to be a complete change of approach to employee health to ensure that those structural changes are effective. To help relieve some of the pressures on the NHS it must be recognised that employee health is a critical business issue.

“If businesses don’t start to recognise their role in improving health they will expose themselves to the risks and costs associated with absence, employee health and engagement, as their employees simply won’t be able to access the care they require on the NHS. By engaging in the issue and implementing best practice procedures, organisations can play a critical role in improving the health of their employees, in turn reducing demands on the NHS and making it more effective when good practice is simply not enough, and reduce the impact that absence has on the business.

“It is also clear that the NHS requires a consistent process to track and manage health and absence to not only ensure that each trust has an accurate understanding of its staff absence but also that the numbers that are being compared are truly comparable. This level of transparency and consistency can then be made accurately available to the taxpayer and governing bodies for assessment of cost and performance.”

Empactis’s portfolio of health and absence management solutions seek to respond to these challenges, providing a unified suite of tools for managing employee absence, health and engagement in a fully scalable way.

Matthew has extensive business experience having worked in production environments, product development, sales and at board level with a number of employers during his early business years.

He has worked in diverse range of businesses, ranging from water sports clothing to medical technology, development and consulting. He totally understands that customer focus is the key to delivering technology and services that really work for the user and the customer.