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NHS trusts to be ranked on purchasing of ‘everyday items’

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Hospital trusts are to be put into a “league table” in order to help them compare prices and save money on equipment procurement, the health secretary has announced today.

Jeremy Hunt said trusts will in future be ranked in a new procurement league table showing how much they could save by buying everyday items at lower prices.

“There is still baffling variation in the prices that hospitals are paying for supplies”

Jeremy Hunt

The new table will rank trusts based on their ability to secure low prices and on the efficiency of their procurement, Mr Hunt told delegates at the NHS Providers annual conference in Birmingham.

The Department of Health noted that, since 2015, the NHS had saved hundreds of thousands by improving the way it buys goods and services but there were still wide variations in procurement.

When compared to their neighbours, some trusts paid more than double the price for items such as surgical scalpels, said the department.

For example, the DH highlighted that prices paid for the same single pack of 12 bandages ranged from £0.35 to £16.47, while a pack of 100 adhesive plasters ranged from £1.68 to £21.76.

“I am immensely grateful for your efforts to clamp-down on unnecessary waste”

Jeremy Hunt

Between them, the bottom five trusts could save over £11m if they bought supplies at the best prices, according to the department.

The Procurement League Table follows a report on variation in the NHS by Lord Carter, which was published two years ago and challenged the NHS to save £700m through better procurement.

It highlighted that, while £30bn a year is currently spent by the NHS on suppliers, prices paid by different hospitals to suppliers could vary starkly.

The league table will be made available on the My NHS platform and on NHS Improvement’s Model Hospital – an information service to help providers improve their productivity, quality and efficiency. It will initially focus on acute trusts but with plans in place to roll it out to other sectors over the next period.

Mr Hunt said: “The NHS is rightly recognised as one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world and I am immensely grateful for your efforts to clamp-down on unnecessary waste.

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy Hunt

“But we must not be complacent when there is still baffling variation in the prices that hospitals are paying for supplies,” he said. “We want to support the NHS to save money wherever possible so it can be reinvested into frontline services.”

Other procurement tools already available include the Purchasing Price Index Benchmarking. Launched in 2016, it sets out the benchmark price for each item the NHS uses so trusts can compare.

The DH also noted that the NHS would in future be able to “flex its enormous buying power” through an improved NHS Supply Chain, replacing the hundreds of individual supplier relationships.

The moves announced today follow recent initiatives on procurement led by nurse leaders, as previously reported by Nursing Times.

The NHS Clinical Evaluation Team was formally unveiled at the Nursing Times Directors’ Congress in Manchester in May last year.

The team – made up of experienced clinical and procurement nurse specialists – was set up to help the NHS buy products that were safer and provide more cost-effective higher-quality outcomes.

Last December it released four reports, looking at hypodermic luer slip syringes, blunt drawing up devices with and without filter, open suction catheters and suction tubing, and examination gloves.

The driving force behind the project was Mandie Sunderland, director of nursing at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, who orchestrated a campaign with the Royal College of Nursing and NHS Supply Chain.

Examples of variation in price highlighted by Department of Health

  • Product
Lowest priceMedian PriceHighest price

Rubber Gloves (Pack of 12)

£0.35

£7.71

£16.47

Single Bedding set

£4.16

£7.99

£16.99

Littmann Classic II Stethoscope

£26.78

£47.96

£90.00

Hand held Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure measuring device)

£14.67

£46.51

£82.00

Lister Bandage Scissors

£26.67

£39.41

£44.45

Bedpan

£6.74

£9.38

£13.05

Adhesive Plasters (Pack of 100)

£1.68

£5.53

£21.76

Bandage compression (25 to 32cm)

£6.79

£8.56

£8.95

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