NHS slammed for poor procurement

6 January 2011
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6 January 2011 | Lindsay Clark

Up to 12 per cent of the NHS purchasing budget is wasted, according to a shared services joint venture.

Health service managers were squandering more than £1 billion a year by paying inflated prices for supplies, said John Neilson, managing director of NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), a joint venture between the UK’s health service and IT services supplier Steria.

Speaking to The Times newspaper, Neilson claimed that NHS SBS data show that eight NHS trusts are routinely paying 19 different sums for the same pacemaker, wasting up to £750 a time. “They haven’t got their purchasing under control at all,” he said.

 The database of NHS spending also revealed that as much as 12 per cent of the services purchasing budget is being wasted by staff overpaying for key items.

NHS SBS monitors the finances for around a third of NHS trusts.

The UK government plans to devolve much of the NHS spending power to GP practices or GP consortia, in a radical overhaul of services. In May, NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency, the main health service procurement organisation, closed.

Speaking to SM in November, Ian Shepherd, chief executive of NHS re:source collaborative procurement hub in the East Midlands, said he feared there is currently no over-arching strategy to manage the changes being implemented.

“If you don’t have the right people, processes and tools in you will leak cash until you put something in place to plugs all those leaks,” he said. NHS re:source collaborative procurement hub in the East Midlands is due to be wound up.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the government’s reforms were designed to create “a more responsive, patient-centred NHS, which achieves outcomes that are among the best in the world”.

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