A digital framework that works for the NHS

Source: NHE Sep/Oct 17

In response to the ever-increasing opportunities to use innovative digital technology to carry out essential admin tasks, NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) first developed a ‘Digital Dictation, Speech Recognition & Outsourced Transcription Framework’ in 2010. With the latest framework available to NHS organisations until 2019, NHS SBS director of procurement, Peter Akid, explains how it continues to provide a cost-effective and legally-compliant means for trusts to access market-leading suppliers.

It is difficult to imagine an industry that can benefit more from the advances in digital dictation and speech recognition technology than healthcare. 

Just consider the exceptionally high volume of medical correspondence produced by NHS clinicians every day, for patients in GP surgeries, walk-in centres and hospitals across the country. The potential here for efficiency savings, faster working practices and improved accuracy when compiling complex medical information – which all ultimately contribute to better patient care – cannot be underestimated. 

By providing busy doctors and overworked medical secretaries with excellent-quality digital recording tools and easy-to-use software, the transcribing of patient notes, letters and emails from audio files, for instance, has become much faster and means NHS secretarial workloads are easier to prioritise and manage. 

Outsourced transcribing, meanwhile, has become a vital service for NHS organisations that do not necessarily have the in-house capability or resource. External providers that offer fast and accurate transcription, as and when it is needed, help to plug any gaps and ensure the patient pathway is not affected by delays to their clinical documents.  

Elsewhere, for those NHS organisations trailblazing speech recognition technology, the reward is automatic real-time conversion of voice into text – meaning documents are produced without anybody even needing to touch a keyboard. Taking this technology and multiplying it across different doctors, clinics, departments – or entire NHS trusts – the total time and resource savings that are possible become almost incomprehensible.  

The latest NHS SBS framework to fulfill this fast-evolving sector is currently used by over 40 different trusts. The carefully negotiated contracts – which are free to access for NHS organisations and compliant with complex procurement legislation – cover a range of high-quality digital dictation, speech recognition and outsourced transcription products and services, at a reduced price and on NHS terms and conditions. We launched the framework last year for a three-year period, offering the NHS a savings opportunity of almost £1m. 

In developing a framework that works for the NHS, a robust tender process ensured the specific needs of NHS providers would be met by any supplier awarded a place on the framework. To this end, our NHS procurement experts worked alongside colleagues from Bolton NHS FT, Oxford Health NHS FT and University Hospital of South Manchester NHS FT to understand exactly how the technology could be best implemented in the hospital environment. 

Those trusts taking advantage of purchasing technology via the framework see the novel pricing options as particularly beneficial, providing them with the flexibility to invest in a capital purchase of hardware and software solutions, or alternatively on a subscription model. Awarded suppliers have the capability to provide either an off-the-shelf package or a fully customised solution, designed to meet the specific requirements of an individual NHS organisation. 

Every day across the NHS, we see examples of how exciting new technologies are being used to improve the way our healthcare system functions and enhance patient experience and outcomes. And helping NHS organisations to access the most innovative products and services, at the very best price, is central to NHS SBS’s commitment to support transformation in the health service and secure best value for the NHS.


The framework, which is part of our complete IT & digital portfolio, can be accessed here:


To learn more about the software and systems on offer, or to find out about the 100+ other framework agreements NHS SBS manages, visit:


Or contact the procurement team:


Top Image: © hjroy


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