An experienced nurse has been credited with helping save her hospital trust in Devon hundreds of thousands of pounds through a project to buy best-value for money equipment.
Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust appointed senior sister Michelle Winfield as clinical procurement manager, originally on a six-week trial.
“We are finding that equipment does not always need to be the cheapest – my father always used to say ‘buy cheaply, spend twice’”
Since being appointed in October 2014, the trust said she has helped to save thousands by introducing new or more efficient equipment and reorganising storage.
These include a combined saving of £400,000 by changing its brand of sutures and surgery gloves, and starting to use the rib matrix set to help patients recover far faster from broken ribs.
The savings are proving so effective that other trusts and organisations are now hoping to follow suit, according to Plymouth Hospitals.
Ms Winfield, who has been doing the role alongside some clinical duties, has also become involved with the National Network of Clinical Procurement Specialists, which advises on national, regional and local purchasing initiatives and processes affecting patient outcomes.
“What is crucial is that this is a clinically-led project, in partnership with procurement and finance”
Having taken on the procurement job, she remains clinical lead for maxfac theatres together with the theatre team and still acts as senior lead for theatres on evening and weekend duties. However, she no longer runs a team of theatres or an individual theatre.
The initiative at Plymouth follows a recent drive to get nurses more involved in procurement as a way of helping the NHS save money.
The Small Changes, Big Difference campaign was launched in March and is a joint initiative by the Royal College of Nursing, NHS Supply Chain and the NNCPS.
It was the brainchild of Mandie Sunderland, chief nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, who is now also acting as an advisor to the national review of efficiency in hospitals, led by Lord Carter of Coles.
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Ms Winfield, who has worked at the trust for more than 30 years, said: “The key to this working is involving clinical staff in the choices and changes.
“To date we have made amazing savings with products already in the system by standardising across theatre central, taking new ideas from the staff and researching quality and costs,” she said.
“We are finding that equipment does not always need to be the cheapest – my father always used to say ‘buy cheaply, spend twice’. But it does need to be the most cost effective,” said Ms Winfield.
“For instance the rib matrix set means patients with fractured ribs can leave hospital at least seven days earlier and return to work within three months whereas before some would never return to work,” she added.
James Leaver, category manager at the trust, said that without Ms Winfield’s input into the sutures project “we would never have got it through to the level we have”.
“What is crucial is that this is a clinically-led project, in partnership with procurement and finance,” he said. “We are seeing a real sea change in attitude with people no longer taking the historic view that procurement and finance are ‘imposing’ changes on clinical staff.”
Mr Leaver added: “Because of the success of this project we are now inundated with calls from regional and national organisations asking us how we have delivered the project.”