30 March 2011 | Lindsay Clark
The procurement of high-cost equipment is not achieving
value for money across all NHS trusts, according to the National Audit Office
The spending watchdog’s finding follows an examination of
spending on scanning equipment used in the treatment of illnesses, including cancer.
The research found that despite the use of framework
agreements for three quarters of purchases between 2009 and 2010, there was no aggregation
of volume on this multi-million pound spending. “Trusts also lack independent
procurement advice when purchasing new machines or new types of machines to
help them decide the appropriate level of functionality to meet their
operational clinical need,” the report said.
The NAO estimated that replacing all machines currently in
service would cost the NHS £1 billion over the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, the government’s overhaul of the NHS includes plans
to make all trusts responsible for their own procurement from 2014, rather than
benefiting from centrally funded programmes. “There is… considerable
uncertainty about how decisions on equipment will be informed locally,” the
Commenting on the plans, Amyas Morse, head of the National
Audit Office, said: "This is a challenge requiring planning by individual
trusts, since there is no longer a centrally funded programme. Turning to
efficient management of this equipment, trusts across the NHS lack the
information and benchmarking data required to secure cost efficient procurement
and sustainable maintenance of these key elements in modern diagnosis and
The Department of Health said NHS Supply Chain, which provides
NHS support services, would use trusts' capital equipment plans to identify
opportunities to buy expensive machinery together, placing multiple orders, in
the context of the changes to the NHS.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Burns commented: "The
clinical leadership of GP consortia will allow closer working with hospital
clinicians to design cost effective services.”
The NAO’s recommendations on how the new NHS Commissioning Board,
the body which will oversee the new NHS system, would be able to help improve
the situation, he added.
The NAO report examined procurement of computed tomography, magnetic
resonance imaging and linear accelerator scanners.