Fund nurses, not networks – why taxpayers, the NHS and social care providers are losing money
£7.6 billion – that’s the amount the UK’s mobile networks overcharged businesses and the public in 2018. At a time when the Government continues to look at long-term solutions for funding the NHS and social care sector, is it time to take back control from the network providers and channel funding into medical innovation and personalised care?
Mobile networks should be subject to a duty of care to ensure that both consumers and businesses are on the fairest deal possible. As it stands, Ofcom has taken active steps for consumers, compelling networks to let people know their contract is coming to an end and the most suitable deal available, while also taking account of the consumer’s actual usage so they can avoid being overcharged. There is no such protection for businesses or public sector organisations. It is quite right that the public is protected from networks, but illogical that organisations are not. When you consider the large amount of staff handsets involved in areas of the healthcare sector such as community nursing, elderly care or hospitals, one can appreciate the costs involved are significant and the savings potential even more so.
In my role as Managing Director of Billmonitor, the UK’s leading specialist service supporting businesses and public sector organisations to find the mobile plans that work best for them, I have seen some egregious examples of poor practice by the networks. I worked with one NHS healthcare provider that was still being charged by their network after one of their hospitals burnt down. To make matters worse, the network ended up charging the hospital for both the destroyed services and the call divert they put in place afterwards. We frequently see healthcare trusts being purposely kept on unsuitable contracts, resulting in significant out-of-contract charges which only benefit the networks and its agents.
In an industry focused on the best patient outcomes possible, this simply should not happen. Our analysis shows that, upon review, organisations typically save half the cost of their current contract. Mobile networks should proactively be placing businesses on the deal most adequate to their needs. If this was the case money could be redirected back into patient care and medical innovation.
To highlight the impact this has on the healthcare sector we ran some analysis and conservatively estimated that NHS foundation trusts could save £169 million over the course of their contracts. This could equate to 4,970 more nurses, the purchase of world-leading medical equipment and ultimately better medical outcomes. The fact that this money is silently lining the pockets of profit-focused mobile networks should be a topic of national outrage.
With the Government highly focused on the healthcare sector and how it is to be funded in the long-term, now is the time for unnecessary costs and overcharging to be addressed – for Government funded and private businesses. Having enshrined NHS funding in law and with a manifesto commitment to design a long-term plan for the social care sector, this is the opportune moment to tackle unfair costs, such as those presented by mobile networks, that are draining resources from the healthcare sector. At a pivotal time for the healthcare sector, I would like to see funding going towards nurses, not networks.