Starbucks queueing system will help cut waiting times at clinics

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Buying a coffee in Starbucks may strike some people as unduly complicated, but the system of interlocking queues to order the beverage, pay for it and collect it is now to be translated to the NHS.

The series of transactions designed to deliver a carton of hot liquid into customers' hands in the shortest possible time is to be adapted to help cut waiting times in hospital clinics.

John Reid, the Health Secretary, has given the go ahead to the creation of a team of senior hospital consultants whose job will be to tour the NHS spreading ideas for change and acting as a sounding board to feed back opinion from the grassroots.

One hundred meetings are planned with NHS trusts nationwide over the next two years. The team, to be led by David Kerr, professor of clinical pharmacology and an expert in bowel cancer at Oxford University, will aim to identify the doctors most open to new ideas in each NHS trust in order to speed up modernisation.

There is growing alarm in Westminster and Whitehall that despite the investment of billions of pounds in the NHS the pace of change is too slow to deliver the improvements the Government has promised, including a cut in waiting times to a maximum of six months by 2005.

"The health service should feel better and I am puzzled why it doesn't," Professor Kerr said. "This is about working better, not harder. I think if we can do it, we will save thousands of lives."

The Starbucks experience is one example of ideas being promoted by the team, to be known as the Front Line Forum, to deal with common problems in the NHS.

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