CNWL is a large, innovative, and diverse organisation, providing health care services for people with a wide range of physical and mental health needs. They employ nearly 7,000 members of staff that provides more than 300 different health services across 150 sites and in the community.
This project was initiated to develop a reporting tool that would simplify and improve the processes around collecting, collating, and computing estates and finance data. The aim was to achieve a high-quality data reporting solution, linked to NHS Digital for the annual Estates Return Information Collection (ERIC) return.
The resulting ERIC Automated Solution is a web-based application, that allows users to fulfil the return in an easy-to use tool resulting in a more accurate and simple to administer application environment.
The Annual ERIC Return is recognised as being a laborious and time-consuming activity. This stems from the manual nature of the process, combined with the fact that the Trust data needed to answer the ERIC return questions is fragmented and not always complete. When compiling the annual return manually, the process is further exacerbated, as human error in the manual collection and calculation of return information is to some degree inevitable. As ERIC questions and reporting requirements are modified from year to year, reconciling the current return with the previous year’s data introduces a further complication.
The challenge was therefore to develop a solution that would mitigate these difficulties and make the annual return a simpler, more seamless, and accurate process.
CNWL had enjoyed working with EventMAP on a number of key projects. Our expertise in the development of systems using complex data algorithms meant that we were well suited to partnering with them to produce a solution to manage the ERIC reporting process. We developed a platform to compute the gathered data to ERIC questions using algorithms to reduce the risk of human error, thereby saving considerable operational resources. The ensuing ERIC Automated Solution, not only provided mechanisms to aid the ERIC administrator to manage, calculate and fulfil the return, but also allowed other stakeholders to provide required answers to ERIC questions, either via personal logins or importable data templates that could be supplied and circulated from the solution.
Using dynamic feeds from other supported applications such as their estates management solution, also allowed instant access to the most up to date data available in those solutions. This avoided misinterpreting definitions and metrics, for example regarding net gross area, or the double accounting of overheads. This also reduced reliance on one individual or organisation to retain corporate history, and allowed the Trust to “own” its data.
The ERIC Automated Solution has resulted in a significant reduction in the time spent fulfilling the ERIC return. NHS Digital identified in their 2017/2018 ERIC report that inaccuracy of data skewed results in areas such as the reporting of food waste for Trusts. ERIC provides a mechanism for improving the quality of Trust data. Not only does it identify discrepancies in the current years return answers, it allows cross comparison between the current and previous year. All of this allows administrators to check and cross reference data, gradually ensuring that the ERIC Automated Solution can become a central point of truth for relevant ERIC information.
From this it is possible to see that the information used to fulfil the ERIC return can be usable to Trusts in other areas. It is conceivable to comprehend how the data, can be utilised, to identify buildings that perform badly in terms of carbon footprint (as a result of higher than usual utility costs). This, in turn could form a basis for a funding request for new build or refurbishment funding to help reduce carbon emissions.
The implementation of the resultant application at CNWL, along with significant interest from other Trusts demonstrates the need for this application. The result is that the ERIC Automated Solution is now available to be licensed by all NHS Trusts wishing to see the workload from the ERIC return reduced.
The ERIC Automation Solution created with the help of EventMAP has significantly reduced the time we spent creating our ERIC return. The administrative burden of collating all of the data has also become so much simpler. This solution is exactly what we need, and have been waiting for.