Using runners to find patients and paper-based records may sound Victorian but practices like these are common in the NHS where outdated management wastes more than £2 billion a year.
At most UK hospitals, there is only one sure way to find out how many beds are free at any given moment, or where an individual patient is: send a runner round to find out. Cost: £150,000 a year. At the same hospitals, admissions staff are taking patient details on paper, a process lasting five minutes, which six or eight clerical staff will then enter, sometimes several times, on a computer. Cost: £110,000. Outpatient appointments are made centrally and co-ordinated by phone and paper with individual clinics. Because of error or misunderstandings, 12% of outpatient appointments are missed. Avoidable cost: £60,000. At any one time, 25% of patient case note files are not on the shelves and have to be hunted down manually.