New portal keeps track of NHS procurement spend

Department of Health unveils NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation which will allow trusts to compare the amount paid for more than 100 common products

The NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation enables trusts to compare the price paid for common supplies

Hospitals across the country will now be able to compare prices paid for everyday items such as catheters, gloves and needles as part of the Government’s response to criticism over poor procurement practices within the NHS.

The newly-unveiled NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation is effectively a league table of trusts, showing differences in the amount hospitals pay, enabling them to compare prices and identify where they need to drive down costs so they can re-invest in frontline services.

With an eye-watering £14billion spent on hospital goods and services every year, better procurement represents a tremendous opportunity to improve efficiency and free up money for patient care

Announcing the launch, Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter, said: “The NHS budget has been increased but the reality of an ageing population, rising patient demand and more-expensive treatments means our NHS needs to spend money wisely in order to direct every penny into frontline patient care.

“We are delivering on our promise to improve the way our NHS buys goods, equipment and services to make sure taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently and more money is available to look after patients.

“Our new league tables will make the NHS a more-open and better place in which to do business for small and medium sized businesses. Improving procurement practices is about making sure that money is going where it needs to - on patients - and not down the drain.”

The announcement comes 10 weeks after the Department of Health published its long-awaited eProcurement Strategy, a 32-page document that aims to build a national framework through which technology will be used help to improve purchasing and save money.

The NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation is a key component of the Government’s drive to make £20billion worth of efficiency savings within the NHS by 2015 while continuing to improve and enhance services.

It covers more than 100 different products and shows that some hospitals are paying many times more than others just a few miles down the road. It is hoped trusts will use the tool to renegotiate with suppliers in an effort to drive costs down.

Just a quick test of the atlas shows that, when buying simple surgical face masks, the difference between the highest and lowest cost paid – 34p and £1.22 respectively - is 88p. The price paid for a pack of foam dressings varies from £1.87 to £2.48, while a pack of toilet tissue varies between £32.78 paid by Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Staffordshire to £66.72 paid by City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in the North East of England.

Variations in price paid are evident across every one of the product areas, which cover everything from surgical equipment and estates and facilities products to wound dressings, clothing and fabrics.

Our new league tables will make the NHS a more-open and better place in which to do business for small and medium sized businesses

Dr Poulter said: “With an eye-watering £14billion spent on hospital goods and services every year, better procurement represents a tremendous opportunity to improve efficiency and free up money for patient care.

“Things such as gloves, disinfectant wipes and A4 paper are bought in vast quantities and every hospital, and every manager, has a responsibility to get the best price possible and to account for their spending.

“Working in the NHS, I have seen too many expensive joint replacements gathering dust in operating theatres because the hospital bought the wrong ones; or boxes of pricy sutures being bought when a different type would do the job just as well for half the price.”

He added: “Hospitals will be now be ranked on how well they spend money on a range of common goods, helping them to identify where they need to do better.”

And he said that some hospitals could save in the region of £630,000 a year by changing how they buy the 100-or-so common products included in the atlas.

Click here to access the portal.

The tool shows that the price paid for a pack of toilet rolls varies between £32.78 and £66.72

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