Last week’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review re-confirms that the challenges the public sector face will continue, with local government seeing a budget reduction and no increase in funding for police. Although no immediate cuts have been announced for the NHS or policing, all public sector organisations will still have to seek genuine transformation in order to continue to provide core public services. The public sector needs to do this in the face of increasing demand and in a challenging financial environment.
Technology has a role to play in this transformation, above and beyond what has happened to date. It can create long term savings and drive up productivity in a relatively short time frame, enabling our UK public sector workers, both on and behind the frontline, to be more productive and efficient. Not only that, but this can all be done while delivering services to citizens in the way they want and need them.
Community healthcare professionals and social care workers should not have to return to hospitals and offices to write up patients’ records or input data into systems from handwritten notes. Police officers should not spend their valuable time behind a desk rather than out on the beat.
We need to make sure these people have the tools they need to do their jobs to the very best of their ability. They need devices and connectivity which allow them to work wherever and whenever, and to access and update information and systems securely, quickly and easily.
If frontline workers can increase the amount of time spent in the community with citizens, even by a relatively small amount, it can have a significant cumulative impact. The police forces who are using mobile devices and 4G connectivity while on the beat (Met Police, for example), estimate they gain on average an hour per officer per shift – time that can be reinvested in keeping our communities safer. For the NHS, using technology in this way could contribute to the £22bn in efficiency savings it is still expected to deliver by 2020.
Behind the frontline there is further opportunity for savings. By embracing flexible working and connecting information and people across diverse systems and locations, productivity gains and lower overheads can be achieved. Moving to a shared desk and flexible working model for example enables central and local government to re-assess their property footprint and reduce overall office space, while still maintaining a ‘base’ for a larger number of employees who don’t need a desk all day, every day.
The public sector cannot afford to continue delivering services as they do today. The technology to support some of the changes needed in order to make sustainable savings already exists. It offers rapid return on investment while maintaining, and sometimes improving, services to citizens.