The hospital that scans every item - from a £10,000 implant to a 20p needle

Ian Britcliffe, head of supply chain at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, shares its latest success at the first-ever Lord Carter Awards

Ian Britcliffe

Last month the first-ever Lord Carter Awards were launched to find the trusts which best represent the use of innovation to improve infrastructure.

Shortlisted as a finalist for its implementation of Ingenica Solutionsí inventory management solution, Atticus, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) was subsequently awarded Highly Commended status for the use of innovative technology to secure efficiency and productivity gains.

Although substantial progress is being made by many trusts, procurement practices in the NHS have been notoriously inefficient

Although substantial progress is being made by many trusts, procurement practices in the NHS have been notoriously inefficient.

There is no doubt why itís an area that comes under fire, and our own experiences and challenges with historic procurement and supply chain processes really accentuated why change was so essential.

At this time, there were huge challenges to battle.

It was a priority to adopt better procurement and supply chain processes; to cut costs, reduce wastage, secure greater financial and operational efficiencies, and improve patient safety.

Once our team had researched the options, the first GS1-certified inventory management solution in UK healthcare, Atticus by Ingenica Solutions, offered us a great deal more in many ways, and the project has since progressed at an unbelievable rate.

Our own experiences and challenges with historic procurement and supply chain processes really accentuated why change was so essential

To get the project off to the best start, implementation began in the operating theatres.

As the busiest, most-challenging and highest-spend area in our trust; it was the obvious choice.

Our biggest challenge was the lack of prior processes, and the lack of data; preventing us from standardising product lines and streamlining purchasing procedures.

Data is absolutely key to resolving procurement issues, and this can only be achieved with best-practice inventory management solutions at the core of the supply chain.

The trust's work with Ingenica Solutions was highly commended in the first-ever Lord Carter Awards

Award-winning results

Today data generated by our inventory management system helps healthcare professionals, at all levels; providing visibility and control in a fast-moving clinical environment.

LTH manages, tracks and traces products and supplies in and out of the hospital, from low-cost bandages to high-value medical implants. All items from £10,000 implants to 20p needles are now scanned.

This allows theatres management and procurement to collate clear usage data, including real-time usage, costs, and traceability by batch no/serial number throughout the supply chain from point of receipt to point of use at a patient level.

This has been a cross-organisation effort, and for other trusts working on similar projects, itís a point worth noting

It also means that our trust can build a picture of usage; who, what, where and when products are used on patients, which improves patient safety.

In fact, all results exceeded early forecasts.

Most notably cost savings are significant: £3m of balance sheet savings; plus more than 7,000 clinical hours saved by reallocating clinicians time from procurement admin-related tasks, such as ordering and chasing stock, back to frontline duties; and also a huge reduction in wastage previously generated by over ordering or out-of-date stock.

As a result of the outcomes from the initial theatres project, roll out has expanded to more than 130 areas, including 25 ward areas.

When we selected the solution, our team specifically selected the only option that is configurable across multiple areas with different processes. Atticus allowed us to use just one solution to achieve procurement and supply chain excellence across the entire trust, avoiding the complexities of integrating more than one system.

This has been a cross-organisation effort, and for other trusts working on similar projects, itís a point worth noting.

Although led by procurement and finance teams, itís not down to these teams alone, it really does involve everyone across the trust.

Cost awareness can, and is, saving the NHS money and our staff play an active part in helping us cut costs without compromising patient care

Itís positive to see that by creating new processes and procedures, LTH has opened the eyes of staff to the possibility that technology enables efficiencies, and provides real information about the organisation and cost drivers; a valuable advantage.

Staff are certainly more cost-conscious and, likewise, more aware of wastage.

Cost awareness can, and is, saving the NHS money and our staff play an active part in helping LTH cut costs without compromising patient care.

Collaboration

LTH supports others in their evaluation of solutions, and shares best practice through its work with the Department of Health and GS1.

Itís great to hold open days to demonstrate Atticus, share experience, and achievements, and to be in position where our experts are helping other trusts reach the same level of procurement and supply chain management as LTH.

Promising plans lie ahead as LTH is also exploring how multiple trusts could share a platform on a cloud infrastructure to widen the efficiencies and allow us to work with other trusts in line with Lord Carter

Promising plans lie ahead as LTH is also exploring how multiple trusts could share a platform on a cloud infrastructure to widen the efficiencies and allow us to work with other trusts in line with Lord Carterís recommendations.

The ultimate goal is procurement linked to patient outcomes, and a longer-term understanding of the patient cost to the NHS.

In terms of cost, the benefit to the patient should be measured, and the ultimate cost of maintaining that personís health throughout their lifetime.

The introduction of innovative technology has delivered outstanding results. The future potential is enormous.

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