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NHS should shop smarter

27th September 2011

The government is hoping that by using more cost effective procurement strategies it can assist the NHS in saving over £15 billion by 2014.

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Barts and the London NHS Trust has proved that buying and using equipment in a smarter way can result in significant savings.

The teaching hospital saved over £300,000 in 2010 by changing the way it ordered rubber gloves.

The trust previously bought 20 different types of glove for use by staff. When the procurement team reduced the glove types to just two, the trust saved almost half of its original spend of £700,000.

"What we have done now is to move to one supplier, and we will be saving £320,000 this year just by standardising to a better value product," says Zoe Greenwell, the leader of the trust's procurement team.

The government is keen to see the same success replicated across the 168 hospital trusts in England.

They are aiming to make savings of £15-20 billion in the next three years across the heath service and £1.2 billion will come from procurement spending. 

"We found that trusts bought 21 different types of A4 paper and 652 different types of rubber gloves… and somewhere over 1,700 different cannulas," says Mark Davies, director of health value for money studies at the National Audit Office.

"We estimate that there is something like £500m being lost every year on spending of £4.6bn. It's the prize that's being lost by the NHS if only they could get themselves together and procure more efficiently," said Mr Davies. 

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Comments

David New

Tuesday 27th September 2011 @ 22:25

This is probably the fourth time I have seen almost identical articles concerning NHS procurement and the NAO. This has been the standard manner for the NAO to publicly criticise the NHS - I think it was cornflakes instead of gloves before. There are many reasons why this happens ranging from local suppliers to consultant preference. The practice of supplier reduction saves money in the first instance and then prices will rise after all of the alternative suppliers are forced out of business. Then trusts go back to newer/local suppliers and the circle starts again. Many of the so-called multiple items will be code duplications and trusts buying from nearby sources instead of centralised supply. Try forcing your family to only buy the cheapest variant of toilet rolls!


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