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Drive time data delivers accurate mileage claims

For more than 10 years, we’ve provided NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) with a mileage calculation web service as part of its ePay expenses solution, that’s accurate, simple to use, and efficient.

Established in 2005 by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in partnership with digital experts Sopra Steria, NHS Shared Business Services makes life easier for NHS staff, patients and suppliers by reimagining shared corporate services for the digital age. It partners with NHS organisations all over the country to improve efficiency, generate cost savings and transform corporate services.

They provide payroll services to around 400k employees to over 40 different NHS organisations including expenses validation and remuneration through its ePay solution. In such a responsive and mobile organisation as the NHS, travel expenses can be particularly challenging to process in an efficient and timely manner. This is where we came in.

The challenge:

In 2011 NHS SBS were tasked with improving operational efficiency, identifying cash-releasing savings and increasing added value services to the NHS, across HR, Payroll, Finance and Procurement. They identified that a system (ePay) to measure travel times and distances when calculating employee mileage claims would:

  • Make the process much more efficient
  • Increase the accuracy in managing claims
  • Ensure that employees receive the correct mileage expenses for journeys made

The NHS SBS ePay login screen on a laptop.

The solution:

Beacon Dodsworth created a bespoke live web service version of our distance calculator, TimeTravel, which uses a smart algorithm to calculate the shortest distance and travel time from multiple full postcode locations. TimeTravel technology combines road networks, postcode data and speed tables. Through continuous development the drive time/drive distance engine recognises a wide range of factors to provide an unrivalled level of accuracy.

TimeTravel includes factors such as:

  • Road types and features
  • Modelled road speeds
  • The road location i.e. rural, urban etc
  • Road restrictions such as one-ways
  • Other geographical features such as bridges and ferry crossings

An accurate and cost-effective web service

Accurately calculating mileage expense claims requires detailed road data, which can be expensive and therefore prohibitive. However, because the NHS is a public sector service, we knew that they were entitled to free data under the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA). The PSGA is an agreement between the government and the Ordnance Survey (OS), which licenses public sector organisations to access and share OS digital map data.

Beacon Dodsworth have been partners with Ordnance Survey for many years and have extensive knowledge of using OS map data with the TimeTravel distance calculator and our powerful GIS mapping software, Prospex.

The road network data we selected was the Integrated Transport Network (ITN) layer data from OS MasterMap. Using OS ITN road network data enabled us to plot the position of every road in the country, provide the high level of detail NHS SBS required, and ultimately deliver a cost-effective, robust and accurate solution. ITN has become the OS Highways product with even more detail in the road network.

The web service was easily integrated into the NHS SBS ePay system. The flexible API provides routing and postcode integrity checks. TimeTravel technology can be integrated with third party systems and data to meet most user needs.

To keep the data provided by the TimeTravel engine accurate we update with road network changes and any new postcodes, such as new housing estates, as part of our ongoing support. Recognising the need to minimise disruptions during updates we regularly work with NHS SBS to schedule and manage updates. We also provide ad-hoc telephone support to ensure that users are both confident with, and understand, the routes this web service provides.

"Beacon Dodsworth went the extra mile to really understand what we are trying to achieve. They ultimately delivered a bespoke solution that matched our requirements, exceeded our expectations and added a huge amount of value to our overall payroll service.

"With their accommodating and approachable nature, we’ve developed a positive working relationship. The ongoing phone and email support we receive for internal queries is invaluable. Beacon Dodsworth have provided us with a streamlined and accurate mileage expense claim calculator that has improved service quality for all our NHS clients.”

Tasy Warn, Director of Employment Services,
NHS Shared Business Services

The result:

The web service we provided has been successfully used by members and employees since June 2011. Since its launch, there have been over 15 million interactions with the NHS SBS TimeTravel distance calculator and the number of users continues to rise.

Hosted on a dedicated Beacon Dodsworth server, the reliable web service is available 24/7 and is backed up in real time to ensure a continuous level of service. This is essential as NHS employees may file expenses claims via ePay at any time of the day or night.

How can we help you?

We have more than 25 years experience of journey measurement and planning. Why not see what we can do for you?

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