Mobile .Net application could save NHS millions

Nurses in Bradford are using mobile devices to order supplies, a system that could help cut down on the health service's 'endless paper trail'

Staff at the Bradford Hospitals NHS trust are to start using Pocket PCs to order supplies online wherever they are in the hospital. The system, to be launched by government health minister Lord Hunt on Tuesday, will save the trust about £1m, and could save £200m across the whole National Health Service, according to the partners involved. The application, called Wander, has been built by KPMG Consulting and Hewlett-Packard using Microsoft's .Net technologies, and has been tested in Bradford since February. There are now around 50 mobile devices in use, and about 40 base stations in the hospital's 33 wards and in various clinics and theatres. For more technical details, see the Tech Update feature Hospital mobile revolution starts with supply chain. Hospital staff tend to be mobile, and very often do not have access to a desktop PC when they want to order more supplies. Wander will free up nursing time at Bradford equivalent to 25 full-time staff, by allowing staff to raise requisitions instantly and track orders wherever they are. "Wander is a simple, practical tool that lets us get on with the job we joined the NHS to do -- caring for patients," said Rose Stephens, chief nurse & director of services, Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust. The savings come from simplifying orders, and are enough to cover the costs of installing wireless LANs in the hospital. Staff will select from a standardised catalogue, resulting in larger and more cost-effective orders from the Trust, and reducing the risk of slightly different or mis-ordered products being in use. "Product purchasing compliance will not only lead to tens of thousands of pounds of savings for the Trust, but, more importantly, it will lead to a reduction in clinical risk," said Stephens. "We believe that Wander is a stepping stone to a fully modernised NHS," she said. By presenting information to the back-office systems, the system will make sure stock appears correctly in hospital accounts. It should also mean that stock appears in the cupboards more quickly. "This is only the beginning," said Ian Hill, partner for health consulting at KPMG Consulting. He expects a full implementation of Wander to eventually pass requisitions right through to the supplier without manual intervention, cutting paper even further which would, he said, "eliminate the endless paper trail in NHS trusts." The Bradford trust co-developed the application, so it has not actually paid money up front -- though it is a KPMG customer and this product evolved out of other work. KPMG will now sell the product to other trusts and extend it to cover other applications. "When the system comes to market, it will have a price tag," said Gary Howe, a director of public sector consultancy at KPMG. The price is not made public, but will be set according to the size of the installation, and should allow a return on investment within a few months, he said. "The NHS has invested heavily in the development of its supply chain in recent years," said Lord Hunt, a government minister for health, citing the Purchasing and Supplies Agency (PASA) and the NHS Logistics Authority. "The use of mobile commerce is making further developments possible and I believe that there are considerable benefits to be gleaned from using this new technology." The Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust manages Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke's Hospital, providing healthcare for Bradford's 486,000 people, and some specialist services for much of the rest of West Yorkshire. It employs approximately 4,000 staff and has an annual turnover of £150m, caring for 300,000 outpatients, 100,000 inpatients and 110,000 casualties a year.

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