NHS Digital continues to work alongside stakeholders within Trusts and data providers to improve data robustness and quality. This has been the case since the inception of the ERIC return, and was highlighted in the forward to the 2019/20 collection period report. Despite this, it was acknowledged that some statistics needed to be treated with caution. Considerable effort has been made to improve the accuracy of reporting between the 2018/19 and 2019/20 period. However, it is a herculean task to take data from an organisation with such a large and diverse estate as the NHS, the Trusts and partner organisations within it, and compile that data into a single, consistent, comprehensive report. The task is further complicated given the pressures the NHS has faced during the last 12 - 18 months. In a sense the opportunity to improve data centrally, whilst enlisting the help of people for whom supplying the data is a side issue in their day-to-day function, is a difficult proposition at best.
How can this process be improved, can this circle be squared?
The answer, yes.
Although Trusts gather, record and store data required for the ERIC submission in different formats, it must be possible to record and collate it for the report in a format that is universally consistent. But how can this be ensured and supported in a diversely democratic structure such as the NHS.
Perhaps we are back to the analogy of the carrot and the stick. The stick exists in that Trusts in England must submit an annual return on Estate detailing key measures for their ERIC submissions. Perhaps the carrot lies in providing a solution, which allows them to not only gather that data, but then maintain it in a tool allowing them to harness use of that information in other areas, of benefit to them in their normal day job? Long and short term capital planning.
If collating ERIC data is solely to submit a report once a year so that it can form part of a parliamentary committee discussion, there is perhaps little incentive to be overly concerned whether my data is as robust as it should be, “I have to manage this vaccination roll out, not fill forms… and if I have to fill out this return, I will only go as far as I need to, so that I can fulfil the demands that are staring me in the face immediately!” But if collating this data has broader application, and can be of use to me in other areas of my work, then I am interested.
Data required for the ERIC submission can have many additional uses. Trusts have targets for reducing carbon emissions, they may need to monitor, reduce or control costs and waste associated with certain activities, so that they can deliver a better overall service in other areas, for patients, or line managers. Spiralling backlog maintenance costs need monitoring and addressing before they adversely impact demand, more than is tolerable. This knowledge and business intelligence is contained in the information gathered for ERIC, but because of its lack of transparency, at a grass roots Trust level, it is not readily accessible for use beyond the ERIC report submission, and Estates team.
Ensuring that the data gathered for the ERIC submission is genuinely more useful for estates and facilities professionals in their day-to-day work, is a key measure in ensuring sufficient effort can be expended locally to drive accuracy in reporting. The ERIC reporting tool developed by EventMAP in collaboration with QTS LLP, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL), is such a solution. It provides all of the functionality needed to simplify the gathering of ERIC data, yet it provides a solution which allows users to access, harness, and utilise this data in a transparent and understandable way to fulfil other roles within the estate remit, in support of the delivery of frontline services.
If you would like to find out more, about how the ERIC Automation Solution can help reduce your ERIC reporting workload, at the same time as giving you access to the data in more useful ways, check out our ERIC product page, or contact us for more details. You can also read the case studies detailing information about the ERIC Automated Solution both on the EventMAP website or the website of QTS LLP.