Nationwide system for purchasing expensive medical devices and implants will reduce wide variations in price across the NHS
NHS England has announced a new nationwide system for purchasing expensive medical devices and implants, which will see savings of over £60m ploughed back into specialist care in the first two years.
Currently NHS England spends £500m a year reimbursing specialist units for devices such as implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) for people with abnormal heart rhythms, bone-anchored hearing aids, and bespoke prosthetics.
There are wide variations in the prices hospital trusts pay for the same products, and in the rates of adoption and usage of devices across the country.
A single national approach for purchasing and supplying these devices has now been agreed between NHS England and NHS Business Services Authority. The new system for hospital trusts to order devices for specialist services will be operated by NHS Supply Chain.
By taking a more-rigorous commercial approach, the advantage of economies of scale, and reducing price variations, it is estimated that tens of millions of pounds can be saved from the annual cost of devices currently being purchased – savings that will be reinvested into other specialist services and treatments.
In future, it is also expected that a national supply chain will improve access for patients to new technologies by allowing novel and effective devices, with proven effectiveness and value to be adopted quickly, easily and at the best price.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, director of specialised commissioning at NHS England, said: “Building on the findings of Lord Carter’s review on productivity and the needs of our patients, there is an imperative for specialised services to ensure that every pound of public money delivers the greatest-possible benefit to patients.
“By bearing down on price and quality variation and making the most of our national purchasing power, NHS England will now be able to deliver these same high-cost devices for less, freeing up funding to help meet the increasing demands on specialised services from new and effective treatments.”
While all products currently used will continue to be available to clinicians under the new system, further expected benefits will come from working with clinical colleagues to improve clinical practice and device optimisation, as clinicians will be able to choose the optimum device for the patient based on evidence. The data collected will also allow comparisons to be made between equivalent devices in terms of quality, outcomes, value for money and effectiveness to drive further improvements for patients.
All trusts currently purchasing these high-cost devices will be contacted by NHS England and NHS Supply Chain in a phased approach from this month. NHS Supply Chain will provide a full programme of support to each trust to ensure a smooth migration over to the new arrangements before the end of 2016.
The central supply chain for devices is scheduled to operate until September 2018, when it is expected that the new transformed arrangements for NHS-wide procurement will be in place.