Ethical procurement 'key' to surgical instruments framework

New NHS Supply Chain framework set to improve labour standards and ensure high-quality surgical instruments

Ethical procurement practices are key to NHS Supply Chain’s new surgical instruments framework agreement.

With an estimated 80-90% of surgical instruments being manufactured in Pakistan, NHS Supply Chain continues to support suppliers to meet LSAS contract conditions as a central part of its latest Ethical Procurement Strategy.

Back in 2012, when the framework was first launched, NHS Supply Chain introduced the Labour Standards Assurance System (LSAS) in collaboration with the Department of Health to enhance the identification of issues, remediation, and continuous improvement of labour standards management.

This formed part of a pioneering approach to include ethical procurement considerations into the tender for surgical instruments and has since provided a blueprint for other product areas.

The new surgical instruments framework sees NHS Supply Chain go even further in its labour standards assurance and highlights its commitment to quality suppliers.

We are committed to transparency and embedding ethical procurement, and have been working closely with our suppliers through the Labour Standards Assurance System

As with the previous framework, all 29 awarded suppliers are required to have level 2 LSAS to trade on the framework and will be supported to help them achieve the milestone to level 3. In addition to this commitment, the new invitation to tender required ISO13485 BS standards and involved product testing by an external organisation, the Surgical Materials Testing Laboratory (SMTL).

Stephanie Gibney, ethical and sustainability Mmanager at NHS Supply Chain, said: “We are committed to transparency and embedding ethical procurement, and have been working closely with our suppliers through the Labour Standards Assurance System.

“Our new surgical instruments framework supports and extends our work in this area and helps suppliers to further develop policies and processes to meet requirements in line with International Labour Organisation conventions and the UK Modern Slavery Act.”

Paul Sroden, a vascular surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, added: “Poor-quality surgical instruments increase the risk of surgical site infections and complications – equating to increased patient care and additional cost to the NHS.

“Having a National Supply Chain and Quality Assurance Programme for Surgical Instruments allows for an independent expert to be closely involved in selecting supply lines, ensuring they meet the quality standards required and are helping to improve patient safety.”

The new framework includes six lots: Single-Use Surgical Instruments and Single-Use Surgical Instrument Packs; Reusable Surgical Instruments; Scalpel Blades Scalpel Handles and Disposable Scalpels; Single-Use Suction Tubes; Self-Retaining Retraction Systems; and Sterile Single-Use Plastic Forceps.

Alongside ethical procurement, helping trusts realise savings remains a key priority for NHS Supply Chain.

The new framework agreement has the potential to deliver £1.8m of savings by 2018.

To ensure customers confidence in the suitability of products selected and the product grouping, price and quality were key considerations in the tender process. To this end, an E-auction was held for LOT 1, assessing supplier pricing and product quality. As of May 1, 2017 LOT 1 products will be rationalised with the top five awarded suppliers for a 12-month period offering customers a competitive price with the added value of quality inspection.

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