Since 2006, the Business Service Authority (NHS BSA), a not for profit admin arm of NHS England, has been managing prescriptions, pensions, bursaries and dental claims. Employing roughly 2500 individuals and covering £35bn worth of transactions per year, it is reasonable to say the NHS BSA is a fairly sizable operation. Recently, however, it has turned its attention to the digitisation agenda, most notably through electronic prescriptions.

Martin Kelsall, Director of Primary Care Services at NHS BSA, speaks to Hospital Times about the changing role of the Business Services Authority in light of the digital agenda.

“As prescriptions become electronic, we now have the capacity to help other NHS organisations deal with their paper challenges,” says Martin. Given that two thirds of prescriptions are now managed electronically, resources that were previously dedicated to scanning and managing paperwork can now be used elsewhere in the NHS.

Martin Kelsall – NHS BSA

Martin is turning his attention to medical records, keen to see the end of legacy ‘Lloyd George’ records in favour of cloud-based data management solutions. Currently, the NHS BSA is 14 months into the digitisation of 60 million documents for North Bristol NHS Trust.

Neil Darvill, director of Informatics, North Bristol NHS Trust, says, “We’ve been working alongside the NHS BSA for the last 2 years. Throughout this process, they have demonstrated an ability to fully understand our requirements, piloting the service initially and then helping us to develop a full service specification.”

The service they offer covers collection, scanning, character recognition, quality assurance, analytics and secure management or destruction of paper files. Seeking to offer this service to Trusts, CCGs and other health and care providers across England, NHS BSA plans to move into new offices in Newcastle to make more efficient use of space.

As with any digitisation, security and data protection must be at the forefront of the agenda. NHS BSA holds data for 18 months while it is being processed before passing it back to individual providers. This is deemed as sufficient to ensure a comprehensive digitisation process can be completed while not keeping hold of personal patient data for longer than necessary, thus adding to the risk of data breaches.

Why the NHS BSA? Martin’s answer, because it’s already in the NHS. “NHS to NHS offers a far more pragmatic approach,” he comments, “this makes it easy for procurement as the work is being done by a familiar body.” NHS BSA is also no stranger to working at scale, processing over 44 million dental claims per year, alone. So what is the agenda?

Beginning with digitisation of records, it is clear that NHS BSA has much more to offer. “Medical records are an obvious starting point and given we are NHS servicing the NHS,” says Martin, “the whole process of engagement is easier, faster and cheaper compared to using commercial third parties.”

Further to the work in Bristol, NHS BSA has also started work in Newcastle Gateshead CCG, where it is digitising all primary care records for 293,602 patients. While Martin is confident in getting the work done, so far they are only 15 per cent of the way through the 25.25 million documents that need to be processed.

Looking to the future of integrated care in the NHS, Martin says: “This would eventually eradicate the need to transport paper files between practices, offer total interoperability, allow access across organisational boundaries and meet the needs of any future integrated care system. A flexible and simple solution on a national scale would be far more cost effective than 211 CCGs or thousands of practices working independently. Our solution also removes the reliance on third parties who charge to integrate scanned documents into their IT systems and therefore keeps ownership of all images within the NHS family.”

How can this be achieved?

The NHSBSA is reconfiguring its high volume IBML ImageTrac scanners – previously used to scan prescriptions – to now process medical records.  In addition, the NHSBSA has the option to use specially created and easy to use Lloyd George software from CCube Solutions – a British firm with expertise implementing electronic document management systems in the NHS, including an established track record delivering Lloyd George records digitally for CCGs and GPs directly.