The Independent London Newspaper
24th May 2017

HOSPITAL SELL OFF: Consultants working for former car parts company used stopwatches to time staff

    Chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh

    Chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh said lessons learned from Unipart would be 'extended right over the hospital'

    Published: 7 February, 2013

    CONSULTANTS working for a former car parts company, armed with stopwatches, followed 200 NHS staff around while they worked as part of a drive to find more savings at the Whittington Hospital.

    Unipart Expert Practices, part of the global Unipart Group, was paid £500,000 to wipe £750,000 off the trust’s costs each year.

    The “time and motion” techniques used on NHS staff have been deployed by the firm to streamline corporate giants including Sainsbury’s and Vodafone. The company has defended its practices and said recommendations it has made – soon to be implemented by the hospital – would ensure a better “patient journey”.

    But staff have spoken of the ordeal of being observed over two months before Christmas, which led the hospital’s board to axe 22 medical secretaries from a pool of 40.

    One told the New Journal: “Members of staff had a Unipart rep who came and sat with them every second of the day for one to three days timing how long each task took with a stopwatch. For example, how long sending an email took and calls. You were followed when you walked anywhere, and asked what you were doing like a running commentary.”

    The changes recommended will see the main entrance of the hospital transformed into a huge waiting room. Patients will be called up to wards from reception and have their journey through the hospital coordinated by a single member of staff.

    Frank Nigriello, Unipart Group’s director of corporate affairs, told the New Journal: “We gather as much data as we can. You time activities and measure them, we count things. We want to know how long something is taking.

    “There have been no complaints with us.”

    Unipart has fallen around £140,000 short of its original £900,000 savings target, according to a board report.

    When asked whether it was morally right to apply a business-style approach in the NHS, Mr Nigriello said: “Some folks have a fundamental belief that if costs go up in the NHS that’s ok, just raise the taxes. That is an argument. Other people say: ‘No, we don’t want to pay more tax, get costs down.’”

    Whittington chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh said lessons learned from Unipart would be “extended right over the hospital”.

     

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