Three-point plan for introduction of new NHS procurement standards

GS1 UK issues guidance on meeting Department of Health's eProcurement Strategy demand for introduction of supermarket-style barcode technology

NHS trusts are being urged to implement a three-point plan to ensure they meet the Government’s call for the widespread implementation of supermarket-style technology to improve purchasing and save money.

The actual process of achieving full GS1 standards adoption will not happen overnight; every trust will be at a different stage of implementation already, and full compliance may be phased in over a period of a few years in some cases

Published in May, the Department of Health’s 32-page eProcurement Strategy set out plans to enhance commissioning and procurement through the mandatory introduction of global GS1 coding and PEPPOL messaging standards throughout the healthcare supply chain. It is claimed compliance with these standards will enable trusts to manage their non-pay spending through the adoption of master procurement data, automating the exchange of procurement data, and benchmarking procurement expenditure against other trusts and healthcare providers.

And this week supply chain standards and solutions group, GS1 UK, issued a call to action aimed at helping NHS trusts to implement the changes.

Chris Doyle, the company’s healthcare marketing manager, said: “The strategy estimates that trusts can save £1.5billion by the end of 2015-16 by taking a cohesive approach to procurement based on global GS1 standards, national infrastructure and local delivery. The strategy mandates a common language for identifying, locating, moving and trading medical supplies and assets and crucially holds trust board members responsible for implementation.”

In June, GS1 UK held a conference to educate trusts on GS1 standards, what they are, where they can be applied, and how they work.

Doyle said: “The actual process of achieving full GS1 standards adoption will not happen overnight; every trust will be at a different stage of implementation already, and full compliance may be phased in over a period of a few years in some cases.”

He is recommending that all trusts undertake the following three actions now.

  • Prove the business case: Every NHS trust is also a business and implementing GS1 standards may require some investment in new systems and working practices. This means there is financial commitment involved, so the case must be made that does not just focus on the imperative of the Government mandate, but also stresses the benefits in terms of long-term procurement cost savings, operational efficiencies, time savings for front-line staff and improved patient safety. The Nursing Technology Fund from NHS England will make £70m available during 2014-15 for this
  • Find an executive advocate to drive the project: While patient safety is of paramount importance, procurement is often not very high on the board’s agenda. However, with budgets under so much strain, the guidance provided in the eProcurement Strategy offers clear long-term benefits and cost savings to ease this strain. It is important to find an executive board member who can become the champion for driving the strategy through. Providing examples of early adopters of the technology and the impact that has already had for their trusts can perform a key role in securing an advocate
  • Get started on an area of adoption now: Every trust is at a different stage of compliance and starting to put a plan together should reveal areas where quick gains can be made. In most cases the obvious initial area of focus will be location identification, using Global Location Numbers or ‘GLNs’, and patient identification in line with NHS ISB 1077. These provide the best practical platforms from which to build

Significant momentum will need to build up in order to successfully implement the guidance, and undertaking these three actions now will ensure that trusts get off to a strong start and enable them to scale at pace

Doyle said: “Achieving widespread adoption of GS1 standards throughout the NHS requires investment in the supporting systems and processes that need to be rolled out, but the intention behind the eProcurement Strategy is to support the evolution of the NHS and help it overcome the multiple long-term challenges it faces.

“Significant momentum will need to build up in order to successfully implement the guidance, and undertaking the above three actions now will ensure that trusts get off to a strong start and enable them to scale at pace.”

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