A new way to free up resources in healthcare

The Swedish county councils are expecting an increased wave of retirements within the healthcare sector, and within five to ten years, there could be a shortage of personnel trained in healthcare professions.

Helena Hahne"The service assignments are important and require the right skills and knowledge, but not healthcare training," says Helena Hahne, a project manager from Östergötland county council.

In order to cope with this situation, Östergötland county council is considering how best to employ its healthcare resources. One way is to release healthcare personnel from ‘care-related service’. It is the first county council in Sweden to test out the idea of relying on an external company for this type of activity.

Back in the spring, a project was launched at a number of clinics and surgeries at University Hospital in Linköping and Vrinnevi Hospital in Norrköping, among others, where external service companies assumed overall responsibility for laundry and stock management. These tasks were previously the responsibility of staff nurses.

Reduces the risk of duplicate orders

Currently, it is staff nurses who order medical items and clean laundry and then unpack the items and stock the shelves. These are tasks to be done alongside caring for patients, whenever time allows. At each of the four pilot departments, there is now a caretaker from Coor who is responsible for laundry and stock management.

“It is more efficient to have one person ordering laundry and medical items instead of several people, as it means we can ensure a more appropriate stock level for the department. It reduces the risk of duplicate orders and expensive replenishment of stock. We adjust deliveries according to the departments’ requirements and keep less in stock,” says Filip Truedsson, a manager for service development at Coor and a participant in the project.

Another measure to further streamline the work is to use the trolleys in which the laundry is supplied as shelves in the laundry store.

Focus on developing logistics

The project focuses on developing logistics and maintaining or improving the quality of services, while also ensuring patient integrity and product knowledge. The project involves both staff nurses who are normally responsible for laundry and stock management and personnel from Coor who have taken over these tasks.

“The staff nurses are still in overall charge, but they can now delegate the tasks to us,” says Maj-Lis Pousette Pettersson, a project manager from Coor.
The project aims to determine where the dividing line is between healthcare and care-related service and also other areas within care-related service where it could be beneficial to transfer tasks to external service providers.

“An external supplier often develops care-related service in a different way to a county council. A service company can devote itself one hundred per cent to their activity and focus on customising it to make it as efficient as possible from a care perspective,” says Helena Hahne.

About the project

The project began in April this year and will continue until March 2007. Within the project, Coor is responsible for laundry and stock management in the casualty department, operating theatres and children’s clinic dept. 16 at University Hospital in Linköping, as well as dept. 3 at the Medical Centre at the Vrinnevi Hospital in Norrköping.

About Östergötland county council

In geographic terms, Östergötland county council covers the entire county of Östergötland, which includes thirteen municipalities and approximately 415,000 inhabitants. The county council is primarily responsible for healthcare and dental care. The aim is for all the county’s inhabitants to be in good health. Within highly-specialised care, the county council also has regional and national responsibility. Östergötland is the county’s largest employer with approximately 11,200 employees.