Price comparison site to revolutionise NHS procurement

Government annnounces procurement shake-up that will enable trusts to compare price paid for goods and services

A new price comparison website aims to make NHS procurement processes more transparent

NHS trusts will be able to compare the price they pay for goods and services following the launch of a comparison website that aims to curb wasteful spending and improve procurement processes.

The website will include details of what organisations are paying for everything from rubber gloves and stitches to hip replacement implants and even building developments.

To coincide with the creation of the site, the Government has also announced the post of procurement champion, whose job it will be to improve overall purchasing systems within the health service.

hospitals must wake up to the potential to make big savings and radically change the way they buy supplies, goods, services and how they manage their estates

They will work with a team of advisers drawn from the NHS and private business who will help scrutinise and spread best practice.

The move follows the publication, in February 2011, of a National Audit Office report which concluded that better procurement could save the NHS half a billion pounds a year. This was followed by a study by Ernst and Young which highlighted that approximately £500m a year is being lost due to poor procurement processes and decisions.

For example, the report stated, the price paid for the same box of medical forceps ranged from £13 to £23, while for blankets the costs differed from £47 to £120.

Announcing the plan this week, Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said the ‘scandalous situation’ must end.

"When our NHS is the single biggest organisation in the UK, hospitals must wake up to the potential to make big savings and radically change the way they buy supplies, goods, services and how they manage their estates,” he added.

The Department of Health believes savings of £1.5billion could be made out of a total spend of just over £20billion.

Together we can draw upon the huge wealth of procurement knowledge and experience to deliver the mutually beneficial changes that will ultimately make the difference

One of the key factors in the poor practices highlighted has been the lack of information sharing between trusts about what each pays for identical goods and services.

It is hoped the new price index will enable them to do this in much the same way that members of the public use similar sites for things such as energy and insurance quotes.

One of the areas where it is felt savings could also be made is through bulk buying, which is done by the NHS Supply Chain on behalf of the health service.

Joanna Timmerman, managing director of procurement for NHS Supply Chain, said: “Working with our suppliers on ways to reduce costs and bring greater efficiencies for the NHS is one of our top priorities. Together we can draw upon the huge wealth of procurement knowledge and experience to deliver the mutually beneficial changes that will ultimately make the difference.”

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