Supplier and clinician relationships must be controlled says hospital procurement boss

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
5 July 2015

Hospital trusts should develop policies to regulate the relationship between clinicians and supplier representatives.

Helen Lisle, associate director of procurement at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), said it was necessary to have a clear framework to avoid “off-contract spend”.

“We do need to ensure that trusts have robust policies and procedures around this area, as it can actually increase off-contract spend, impact on a trust’s planned direction and at its most severe, impact on the quality of patient care,” she said.

Speaking in response to Lord Carter’s interim report on NHS spending, Lisle said she would welcome the introduction of a UK version of the US Sunshine Act, which requires suppliers to disclose their commercial relationships with clinicians.

“However, I do wonder where the cost of facilitating such an act would lie,” she said. “If accreditation and registration is costly to the supplier, we would be very naïve to think that cost is not transferred through to trusts.”

Lisle, who is also chairman of the Health Care Supply Association, said Carter’s report “identifies a number of elements that quite frankly cannot be argued with” but added that “from a procurement point of view it doesn’t identify much if anything we didn’t already know”.

Lisle backed Carter’s recommendation that trusts use a single electronic catalogue but said challenges would remain around data consistency. She said CDDFT used a digital catalogue and procurement software provided by Wax Digital. “We now see 90 per cent of the volume of purchase orders being linked to e-catalogues,” she said. She said CDDFT also used the software to provide services to other trusts in the North East.

Lisle said inventory management was as important as contracting in avoiding waste and maverick spend. “From a procurement point of view, what is the point of investing in robust contracting approaches to drive efficiency at the front if you have little control at the back end, over inventory management?” she said.

“Not only does this provide the potential for savings to be lost through maverick spend but it also weakens the contracting phase, due to poor information around true volume and product requirements.”

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