Today we welcome a guest-post from Simon Murphy, NHS SBS Director of Finance and Accounting.
We publicly announced in May that we have partnered with Tradeshift to completely transform the payments process within the UK’s NHS.
We’ll be doing this by implementing Tradeshift’s e-invoicing platform. Since the Tradeshift platform processes invoices electronically, we can eradicate 30,000 daily payment related paper documents from nearly 200,000 NHS suppliers. If you consider that each paper invoice takes approximately 20 minutes to process, you get an idea of the huge benefit this will bring the organisation. NHS resources, and ultimately public money, can be directed towards other value adding services.
Added to this, the platform will enable NHS suppliers to send business documents more quickly and efficiently, enabling faster payments on invoices. It will also allow tracking of invoices across their lifecycle, helping resolve delays and disputes.
Conceptually, no one argues with e-invoicing. It’s an enabler for supply chain finance, helps faster payments, reduces errors and the vast amount of paper circulating inside an organisation. But cost, usability and adoption has always been the barrier.
The problem is that many e-invoicing suppliers charge around 10-20p per invoice, on top of onboarding fees and upfront costs. They’re also clunky platforms that don’t reflect the modern software we use in our daily lives. In contrast to this, Tradeshift is free for suppliers and the platform resembles the look and feel of commonly used social media sites like Facebook, as well as being optimised for mobile and tablet. These two factors totally change the face of e-invoicing, leaving only benefits to implementation.
As a result, we expect between 90 to 100% of our clients and suppliers to be onboarded within three years and, added to this, we expect e-invoicing to lay the foundation for a wider e-commerce strategy within the NHS.
The Tradeshift platform has only been live for a short time but we’re already seeing benefits. For example, our invoice procedure requires us to tally against 15 checks, such as tax amount, date and invoice number. This is often where errors occur when suppliers produce invoices, but Tradeshift seamlessly deals with a great deal of the checks that previously caused problems, up front at the point of invoice submission. It’s a little bit like when you are booking a plane journey – you input all the relevant information at the start, and you can’t move on until you’ve entered everything correctly. This saves a lot of rework and as a result, we’ve already seen 15% fewer calls through the invoicing process from suppliers in our pilot project.
More broadly, this move plays into the NHS’ overall paperless strategy. We deal with seven million paper invoices a year and we estimate that each invoice uses approximately two pieces of paper. This means that 100% adoption of e-invoicing would eliminate roughly 14 million pieces of paper – plus the envelopes they all come in!
This announcement is a significant step for NHS SBS, our clients and the thousands of suppliers who work with us throughout the UK. We want it to become a template for how to efficiently and effectively manage payments within public sector organisations and we are looking forward to further exploring other exciting aspects of e-commerce within the NHS.