THE ST GEORGE’S Healthcare NHS Trust has launched its plan to tackle an overspend of around ?20 million by changing the way it works.

The plan focuses on improving patient services by changing the way the hospital works, based on ideas provided by staff.

Much of the plan, entitled Renewing St George’s: A Plan for Financial Recovery, is based on the fact that some of the Trust’s overspend is to do with outdated processes and systems that cause frustration for patients and staff alike.

It sets out a range of measures to save ?24.5 million over the next three years, including:

  • Reorganising outpatient services. Instead of each part of St George’s running its own outpatient clinics, they will be centralised and simplified, making processes simpler for patients and staff.
  • Changes to nursing. Making sure staffing levels and skills on the wards match patient needs, and reducing the need for bank and agency staff.
  • Changes to the way medical secretaries work. Medical secretaries spend an average of 40 per cent of their time typing. By contracting out typing and centralising processes like booking patient appointments, their time could be freed up to do more of the things consultants need them to do.
  • Closing around 60 beds by reducing the amount of time patients spend in hospital – building partly on clinical research carried out by senior consultants at St George’s, and on further moves to make sure patients are admitted to hospital on the day of their operation.
  • Simplifying procurement, invoicing, IT and HR processes.
  • Developing a private patient service at St George’s. Other London NHS hospitals have them, and they earn money for NHS patients.

Launching Renewing St George’s, Trust Chief Executive Peter Homa says:

“This plan will bring about improvements for patients and will improve our efficiency as well. It is about changing the way we work.

“That said, we know that parts of this plan will be controversial. We cannot rule out redundancies, but we will do everything possible to avoid them and will continue to discuss these plans with staff side. “St George’s is such a good hospital. We are not perfect, but we have improved patient care so much in recent years. If we can sort out our financial position, we really will be making a move towards being one of the best hospitals in the country. Getting there is not going to be easy, but I know many staff agree that we have to act.”

The next steps in implementing the plan will be to begin a programme of meetings with staff to discuss the measures, and the establishment of project teams to implement them. But as Peter Homa explains, it’s time to get down to action:

“There is a sense of frustration that this one thing – our deficit – is holding St George’s back. Also, a sense of wanting to get on with it; to take action. Now is our chance.”