Xansa has announced that it is to formally launch NHS Shared Business Services, its joint venture with the Department of Health in which some back-office financial services will be computerised and outsourced, on schedule on 1 April 2005.

A total of 47 of eligible NHS organisations have signed up for the project. As part of the deal, Oracle will provide software for financial transaction processing, and each participating organisation will receive a copy of Oracle Financials 11i.

Services provided by the deal include accounts payable, debt collection, bank account reconciliation and faster account reporting.

Sir Nigel Crisp, NHS chief executive, said at the launch of the service in Leeds: "The word ‘efficiency’ is uppermost in the minds of the public sector as a whole. My aim is for the NHS to be at the forefront of that efficiency drive — and NHS Shared Business Services gives us a very real, very tangible way to demonstrate our commitment to efficiency."

Alistair Cox, chief executive of Xansa, commented: "NHS Shared Business Services is an example of how the public and private sectors can work together to free up resources for vital frontline services. We are able to supply NHS organisations with support on a wide variety of expert financial services."

David Thorpe, operations manager for NHS Shared Business Services, told E-Health Insider that although many participating trusts found outsourcing their back-office services to be quite a "cultural change", their experiences so far have been very positive. "The trusts find the reporting capabilities a quantum leap from where they were previously. We have effectively more than halved the reporting times."

The NHS Shared Business Services project is the culmination of the work of the NHS Shared Services Initiative (SSI), which was due to become a special health authority in April 2003. The SSI, which was designed to make shared financial departments mandatory for NHS authorities, was later replaced by a voluntary scheme. 230 existing staff in the Shared Financial Services centres in Leeds and Bradford will be transferred to Xansa.

NHS Shared Business Services says that it is currently discussing the matter of transferring more NHS organisations with a number of Strategic Health Authorities. It is estimated that at least half of the 663 eligible NHS organisations will need to sign up for the project in order to generate cost savings.

Xansa added that they were looking to increase their public sector shared service portfolio in the future, and that NHS Shared Business Services looking at adding managed payroll to the venture by 1 April, 2006.

Sir Nigel Crisp and Alistair Cox

Above: Sir Nigel Crisp, NHS chief executive, (left) and Alistair Cox, CEO of Xansa, cutting the ceremonial ribbon on the project.