Comment

10.10.18

Recoup and recover

Source: NHE Sept/Oct 2018

The ease and round-the-clock nature of making cashless payments has transformed the way we pay for goods and services – and, from now on, the NHS should be no different. Stephen Sutcliffe, director of finance and accounting at NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), discusses an innovative new payment system that is enabling trusts to recover much more of the money they are owed.

Failing to recover the cost of treating visitors from overseas is, according to MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, “depriving the NHS of vital funds.” It is, says the committee, an area in which the NHS has been “chaotic.” And, from now on, it has been instructed to do better.

In the ‘Next Steps on the NHS: Five Year Forward View,’ published last year, it is noted that the National Audit Office believes “the best available estimates suggest that the NHS is recovering significantly less than it could” from non-UK residents who use the NHS. In light of this, the government has tasked the NHS with recouping more and writing off less, with the target of recovering up to £500m a year, up from £97m three years ago.

With payment mechanisms often at odds with the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care provided by NHS hospitals, trusts up and down the country have often struggled to collect funds from overseas patients, especially once they have been discharged and return home.

If ever there was a symbol of the need for modernisation, it is the hospital cashier’s office. Typically open 9am-5pm on weekdays only, it relies on the patient to physically visit and make a payment. And, as the figures show, many don’t.

As any busy healthcare practitioner will tell you, hospital treatment certainly isn’t only required during office hours, so it makes no sense that paying for it can only take place within those times.

With this in mind, several trusts are moving with the times and introducing new, innovative payment systems. One such is University Hospital Southampton NHS FT, which was the first to pilot NHS SBS’s Income Collection Online (ICON) system.

Developed in partnership with IT specialists, ICON is a secure and integrated system that enables hospitals to take debit or credit card payments in person, online or over the telephone. And because it links directly to the trust’s finance platform, accounting and reporting processes are much more timely and accurate.

In practice, it means that collecting payments from patients is much easier and can be done at any time. Chip & pin machines can be placed at nursing stations and tablets can even be taken to the patient’s bedside – at the appropriate time – in order to complete online payments. By making it easier and providing more ways to pay – in line with what a patient is accustomed to outside of hospital – the amount of money the NHS is forced to write-off will inevitably decrease. 

With ICON, the process of receiving payments is also greatly simplified within the cashier’s office, where payments can now be easily taken online and a receipt emailed to the patient. And taking payments from patients isn’t the only area in which this technology has the potential to be transformative: NHS employees, for instance, can now pay for training or re-pay salary overpayments quickly and easily.

In addition, because the system is totally secure, it alleviates staff, internal networks and telephony systems of the burden of compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

Put simply, ICON enables hospital staff to request payment in a much timelier manner and means patients find making a payment is easy and hassle-free. The money that is recouped can then – as the Five Year Forward View emphasised – be reinvested where it is needed most: in frontline clinical care.

 

Enjoying NHE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Trust to remain in special measures and issued with second CQC warning notice despite improvements

15/05/2019Trust to remain in special measures and issued with second CQC warning notice despite improvements

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS FT (NNUH) is to remain in special measures and has received a second CQC warning notice despite the C... more >
London trust and CCG to appoint first joint leader in new shared working plans

15/05/2019London trust and CCG to appoint first joint leader in new shared working plans

A London trust and CCG have published new plans to increase the level of joint working between Croydon’s NHS services by appointing a new s... more >
NHS lost £212m from prescription fraud last year whilst 1.7m people wrongly fined, NAO finds

15/05/2019NHS lost £212m from prescription fraud last year whilst 1.7m people wrongly fined, NAO finds

Around 1.7 million fines have been wrongly handed out to patients and then overturned in the last five years, whilst the NHS also lost £212... more >

681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

System working in an uncertain world

09/05/2019System working in an uncertain world

What, exactly, is an integrated care system? Well, it’s unclear, writes Kacey Cogle, policy advisor at NHS Providers. On the NHS England website, integrated care systems (ICSs) are not clearly defined, referring to STPs (sustainability and transformation partnerships), the predecessor of ICSs, in the first few lines without clarity on the differences between the two. So it is unsurprising that there is some confusion within STPs o... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

health service focus