Woman who ran successful NHS shared service talks about the cross government opportunity

Ruth Ormsby headed up the Department of Health’s Shared Business Service (SBS) before switching to Capgemini a few weeks ago.

I met her yesterday to ask her about the government and shared services.

With the coalition set on cutting the cost of government a strategy to move to shared services seems inevitable. After all, many public sector organisations use the same business processes, but currently have separate IT and staff doing the work.

A contact recently told me that “anyone with an ounce of intelligence can see that shared services are a good idea in government.”

And SBS, according to many experts I speak to, is one of the few successful shared services in the public sector. The joint venture between the Department of Health and Steria now runs the back office processes for 100 NHS trusts.

It uses a single Oracle system and one set of processes. It guarantees 30% cost savings for its NHS trust customers. In 2009 the joint venture, which began in 2005, made its first profit and this year paid £1m back to the NHS. Money that can be invested in the front line. More doctors less back office staff.

No wonder Capgemini was keen to get Ormsby on board. Not the only supplier that was interested either.

Ormsby felt her work was done at SBS and wanted another challenge. Convincing civil servants to move to shared services, and as a result make redundancies, would have been impossible in the past. But things have changed.

“We are in a completely different place now because of the new government and the financial problems. The public sector is now recognises the need for shared services.”

She says there is more activity at the moment.

Although Ormsby believes there is a shared services opportunity across government she thinks that it will gain momentum in parts of the public sector “where there is a family.”

She is referring parts of the public sector such as the police and education, which are similar to the NHS in that they are made up of lots of local organisations. “These organisations have the same back offices but do it differently.”