Monday, December 17, 2007

An old chestnut!

I have posted about this before but things don’t improve.

Payment of invoices is important for small business. It’s crucial for sole traders.

Waiting 8 weeks for payment of an invoice is just not good enough but the National Health Service (NHS) continues to make people like me wait that long before money actually appears in my bank account.

I know the excuses about large organisations and their ‘systems’ and ‘procedures’ - I’ve heard them all. The most annoying thing for me is that I know these long waits are not how it has to be.

When I worked as a manager in the NHS I took it very seriously to make sure small businesses payments were hurried along – whatever the 'system' and the ‘procedure’ may say. I would often make a phone call to the finance department to say something like - 'This person is self-employed and needs the money urgently so please make this payment as a one-off rather than let it get delayed in the system.'

It always worked for me and any manager in the NHS can do that.

These payment delays prove to me the NHS is still not sensitive to individuals.

All systems have to be flexible in my opinion. All it takes is for one manager to take personal responsibly for making sure payments happen. It really is that simple – it is a mindset thing – all it takes is for a manager to rattle the cage a little bit on behalf of the ‘small person’ by not accepting the ‘system’ or the ‘procedure’ as the way it has to be.

I’m really not surprised it doesn’t happen and it tells me everything about the NHS.


David said...

It is a source of continuing amazement to me that bureaucracies like the NHS are unable to overcome the inertia of poor processes. Control is neither perfect nor free. I would hazard a guess that fully 98% of the 8 weeks is simply dwell time in in-boxes throughout the NHS. Most of the twelve signatures required are of people that are simply checking to see if the person before them signed the dotted line and then they parrot that response in kind. There probably is not more than 1 invoice per month that has a real issue that requires "control." I am sorry you are suffering from this gross neglect and also sorry that so many good people at NHS have apparently given up on making changes.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David

Thanks again for your comments.

When I worked as a manager in the NHS I would actually take an invoice to the finance clerk that I knew was responsible for paying invoices. I would tell him/her that I wanted this invoice paying quickly because I knew the person submitting the invoice was either single hander or a small business. It always worked in spite of the system rather than because of it.

I knew my vendors well and felt it was fair for our side of the deal that we pay the invoice promptly because of the service we received.

It is actually very simple to make sure people get paid promptly by the NHS. The problem is, as you so rightly say David, the invoice will stay in the inbox of many unnecessary go-betweens before it actually reaches the person who pays the invoice. You estimate 12 people might handle the piece of paper – you are probably under-estimating the number!!

There are many ridiculous and unnecessary processes in the NHS and some are laughable. They could write a soap opera on this stuff.

Sadly not many managers feel it is their personal responsibility to chase things and they come up with pathetic excuses like ‘That’s the system I’m afraid’

My view of the world differs dramatically – the 'system' should bend not the customer