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'We should be getting better value for money for products'

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Nurses and midwifes need to help rationalise the use of clinical consumables across the NHS and make sure they get better value for money, argues Mandie Sunderland

Never before in the history of the NHS have we faced such a severe financial challenge, with the overspend increasing from £822m in 2014-15 to £2bn in the most recent figures. As the largest professional group, nurses and midwives need to rise to this challenge and do everything we can to help sustain our NHS.

It is time to challenge the amount of choice and waste across the NHS, in relation to the most common products that nurses use every day. The NHS spends more than £20bn every year on goods and services, and we should be ensuring that we are all getting value for money – just like we would with our own household budgets.

We work for a National Health Service and my challenge centres around the fact that we do not have ‘national’ clinical product information based on clinical review and value for money. Value, not price, is key here, as we all know that the cheapest product is often not the most effective.

It is vital that we rationalise many of our clinical consumables across the NHS, as a whole, to those that offer best value, to a mandated quality standard, for our patients. Nurses work on the front line with patients all day, every day, so they understand patient needs and know what works. That is why we now need nursing colleagues across the country to get involved by actively supporting the work of the newly established national NHS Clinical Evaluation Team.

The team is made up of frontline practitioners, seconded from NHS trusts, who will use their expertise to assess clinical consumables in key areas, and identify those that deliver the highest quality and best value for patient care.

Working with clinical staff across a number of trusts, team members will draw on their own extensive experience in fields including tissue viability, infection control, continence and clinical procurement to evaluate product ranges. This will ensure specifications for the considered products will be based primarily on evidence, best practice and usability – with price a secondary consideration. The savings will be achieved through the ability of the NHS to procure those products with good clinical review at the best possible price, through economies of scale.

In most cases, standardisation has benefited patients. In my own trust, a recent initiative to standardise general catheterisation packs across different clinical areas has resulted in savings of £111,000. More importantly, though, we have also seen a 55% reduction in catheter-acquired urinary tract infections.

Nurses need to support this important agenda – after all, every £30,000 saved through better product selection is equivalent to the annual salary of a band 5 member of staff.

Mandie Sunderland is chief nurse, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, and chair of the NHS Clinical Reference Board.

  • For more information about the NHS Clinical Evaluation Team and how to get involved, please visit:
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