Purchasers at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUHT) attend surgical procedures to improve their clinical knowledge, a conference was told.
Tony Stanyard, head of procurement at the NHS trust, said it was important that buyers had credibility with clinicians to influence them to choose more cost-effective products.
Stanyard said his nine-strong team of clinical buyers, out of 18 buyers in total, included a matron and two sisters. “That team of three has credibility because they have already worked in the hospital,” he said. “What I have to do is teach them about procurement. It’s easier to teach a clinician about procurement than it is to teach a procurement person what they need to know about clinical issues."
Speaking at eWorld Procurement & Supply in London, he added: “If you’re buying a lot of clinical products you need clinicians buying them to influence the people who are using them.”
Stanyard said NUHT had an annual income of £888 million and there was a plan to save £45 million in 2015/16. Procurement is tasked with achieving £5.5 million savings on non-pay spend of £140 million.
Buyers were told suppliers only wanted to deal with clinicians. “Surprise surprise, they don’t want to talk to me. They want to talk to the clinicians,” said Stanyard.
He said they had to find ways to influence clinicians’ buying decisions, such as producing a league table of costs per consultant. “One of the ways of engaging with clinicians is by putting some competition into the process,” he said.
Stanyard said they had saved £1.1 million in 2014/15, and planned to save £1.5 million in 2015/16 by asking suppliers to hold prices rather than raising them in line with inflation.
He said the entire NHS spent £120 billion a year. “If we don’t do something with the NHS there could be up to a £65 billion funding gap by 2030,” said Stanyard.
“There is no way to mandate the NHS to do what’s right because there are around 160 acute trusts who do what they want and no-one in the centre.”