Nurses to help save £30m on NHS procurement

Campaign aims to use nurses’ knowledge to help the NHS make better purchasing decisions

Nurses could help the NHS to save millions of pounds

Procurement managers are launching a campaign that will see them working alongside nurses to make the purchase of essentials such as gloves and syringes more efficient.

The Small Changes, Big Difference campaign, run by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), NHS Supply Chain, and the Clinical Procurement Specialist Network, helps nursing staff use their knowledge and experience to have a say in how their trust spends money, and to help secure an estimated £30m in savings.

No-one knows which products work well and which don’t better than nurses, so involving nurses in procurement decisions is good for patient care

A survey of nurses carried out by Nursing Times has found that over 80% of nursing staff think there is scope to save money in their organisation. A further 86% believed that patient safety would be improved if nurses had greater involvement in purchasing.

However, a quarter of nurses say they are not allowed to get involved in purchasing supplies, and a further 28% say they do not have enough time.

It is estimated that nurses working together with procurement managers could save more than £30m – the equivalent of 1,000 nursing jobs – just by streamlining the buying of basics such as wipes and incontinence products.

The campaign is the brainchild of Mandie Sunderland, chief nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust; and Janet Davies, director of nursing at the RCN. It was inspired by the success of a project to standardise products while Sunderland was chief nurse at Heart of England Foundation Trust, which saved £700,000 in one year.

As part of the campaign, online resources have been developed to help nurses and managers make savings, including case studies and how-to guides.

Davies said: “Nursing staff are the backbone of the NHS, but too often they are not given a say in the big decisions. This is a waste of so much experience and knowledge.

“No-one knows which products work well and which don’t better than nurses, so involving nurses in procurement decisions is good for patient care. Nurses want to improve patient safety, and this project aims to help them do that, while also saving the health service money.”

There has never been a better time to look at what nurses are buying and find those opportunities to save money, which will at the same time help protect patient safety and reduce the amount of waste in medical products

She added: “This campaign aims to help nurses work with procurement teams and inspire them with some great examples of nurses who have saved their trusts money and improved patient care. But there is also a role for trusts. They should be making the most of this untapped knowledge and make it easier for nurses to get involved with procurement decisions.”

And Sunderland told BBH: “There has never been a better time to look at what nurses are buying and find those opportunities to save money, which will at the same time help protect patient safety and reduce the amount of waste in medical products.

“As the individuals at the heart of this process, we as nurses are in the best possible position to influence it.”

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