Buyers spark eureka moments in NHS suppliers

15 February 2012

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15 February 2012 | Angeline Albert

A lightbulb moment took hold of one supplier to Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust after he became inspired at the buying team’s first supplier awards.

Brian Mangan, head of procurement at the trust, launched the Excellence in Supply Awards 2011 last November to celebrate good practice. During the event a mattress supplier who got an idea promptly began scribbling on a beer mat. Mangan told SM the drawing was of an alternative shape that could be cut from mattress cloth to reduce waste of the material and save money. “The supplier came up with a new manufacturing approach and we are still quantifying the cost savings that have been passed on to the trust as a result. The awards night was procurement’s way of dropping a stone in the water,” he said.

The ripple effect of the awards has already begun. Mangan said closer relations with strategic suppliers, innovation and more motivated providers are among the benefits. He said they also raised procurement’s profile among the rest of the organisation, especially as internal stakeholders helped select the winners.

Mangan said supplier events redress the balance and “stop the NHS being seen as a soft touch”, which was traditionally the case. He aims to see 70 per cent of spend channelled through the trust’s strategic suppliers and plans to create innovation groups this year, split by key spend categories, which involve providers and stakeholders.

Mangan, who manages an annual purchasing spend of £60 million and a strategic procurement team that has transformed from being merely transactional four years ago, told SM: “We have already picked the low-hanging fruit. We’ve taken significant cost out of all major areas. We have the continuing challenge of working out how we do more with less. While the volume of patients may be increasing, resources are limited.”

He now plans to establish a supplier conference in May to tell suppliers about the trust’s challenges and stimulate feedback on how it can work differently with providers to create efficiencies.

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