Buyers save healthy £2.7m for London NHS trusts

2 February 2012

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2 February 2012 | Angeline Albert   

A shared buying group’s efforts to implement e-procurement processes at London-based NHS health authorities has saved £2.7 million in six months.

The NHS North Central London Procurement Co-operative is made up of eight buyers who purchase mostly non-clinical goods and services, such as computers, office desks and stationery, for five primary care trusts in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.

The group saved millions for the health authorities in the first six months of going live with software firm UNIT4's Agresso Procurement Platform in July 2010. The team’s e-procurement efforts introduced paperless processes, greater access to spend data and up-to-date best pricing from suppliers.

According to the Department of Health's own figures, the average amount of spend captured electronically by NHS bodies across the country in 2009/10 was only 32 per cent.

Jeff Nielsen, head of procurement at the co-operative, said his team managed to electronically capture 89.7 per cent of purchases made by the health authorities, which “virtually eliminated rogue spending” by the 1,400 requisitioners who work at the health authorities’ 200 sites.

Nielson told SM the key to getting value for money for health authorities was constantly challenging suppliers on what they described was the “regular NHS price”, which often was not the best value for money.

He said: “We challenged the ‘regular NHS prices’. For example, by switching to an SME supplier for toner cartridges, we saved £27,000. With a printer copier supplier, we cut down its deliveries to sites from daily to twice a week. We educated requisitioners so that they could see the savings and green benefits of reducing the number of deliveries and, as a result, they planned for them.”

The co-operative achieved best pricing resulting in 37 per cent cost saving on specialised goods, as well as delivering sustainable benefits.

Nielson added: “Whether the requisitioners were heads of department or nursing assistants, we opened up the ordering process to all, using an easy-to-use platform.”

On 19 January, the co-operative jointly won the ‘Best example of ICT-enabled innovation and enterprise' category at the 2011 UK Public Sector Digital Awards. The group was named joint winner alongside legislation.gov.uk, run by The National Archives. 

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