NHS procurement enters new era with unique MES contract

Asteral to advise trust on future purchasing in bid to cut costs

A unique deal between a leading MedTech supplier and a hospital trust on the outskirts of London could become a beacon for the future of procurement in an increasingly cash-strapped NHS.

BBH revealed last week that Asteral had signed a three-year deal with The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to take over maintenance of it equipment portfolio. The contract also includes Asteral’s experts providing strategic procurement advice to trust managers in a move believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The contract takes the widely-used Managed Equipment Services (MES) purchasing approach a step further forward. Instead of a private sector partner procuring and owning the equipment, the hospital’s managers will instead take vendor-independent advice from Asteral, but retain responsibility for the final procurement process.

This contract is subtly different to an MES in that we are helping the trust to make a strategic decision on where its money should go. In effect, we are helping to decide on the equipment which best meets the needs of the trust

Speaking to BBH this week, Stephen Hodgson, director at Asteral, said this approach would support the trust in maximising its investment in technology – optimising financial and clinical outcomes.

He explained: “Trusts today need to ensure they are getting value for money, while delivering the best possible clinical service.

“The contract offers the trust the benefits of a MES, but without the requirement for an investment element as the trust buys the equipment. With traditional MES, it’s our money and our risk for the life of the contract. With Hillingdon, we are advising the trust on the best equipment options, but it’s the trust’s decision and its money.

“This contract is subtly different to an MES in that we are helping the trust to make a strategic decision on where its money should go. In effect, we are helping to decide on the equipment which best meets the needs of the trust.

“We have 10 years of experience as a vendor-independent supplier in the medical equipment marketplace, so can offer advice based on having tried and tested a wide range of devices. It’s comparable to having a Which? report at your fingertips for every procurement decision you have to make. There’s someone there who has tried it already and knows whether it will meet your requirements.

“If a hospital is spending several million pounds on technology and a vendor-neutral body can provide them with fully independent advice, they can spend their money more effectively.”

Trusts are facing significant budgetary and efficiency pressures, so let’s help them to spend their money wisely

Under the deal, Asteral will provide the trust with access to its scientific and clinical expertise, taking a leading role in procurement planning decisions.

“This is a service that helps the trust when investing and that can only be a good thing,” Hodgson said. “Trusts are facing significant budgetary and efficiency pressures, so let’s help them to spend their money wisely.”

As well as providing advice on which equipment to buy, under the terms of the contract, Asteral will also manage the equipment portfolio, including maintenance of more than 4,500 assets, and provide a one-stop-shop for all equipment issues.

John Dangerfield, contracts manager at The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Asteral guarantees us a high level of equipment uptime and we are pleased to welcome them on board. The team’s expertise and advice will help us to deliver efficiency savings, while enabling us to continue delivering an excellent service.”

Companies