Medical equipment being prepared for an operation. © 123RF
Medical equipment being prepared for an operation. © 123RF

NHS procurement 'Swap Shop' saves £850,000

1 March 2016

Ten NHS trusts in the South West of England and beyond have saved in excess of £850,000 by sharing ideas for procurement efficiencies.

Procurement and clinical specialists meet every quarter for a “Savings Swap Shop”, in which they each have 10-minute slots to share information about suppliers and products, suggest different ways to save money and discuss any challenges.

The programme was introduced 14 months ago by Andrew Varley, clinical procurement specialist at Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Nick Hodgson, supplier development advisor at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust, after they realised procurement professionals in different trusts weren’t sharing information.

“In our pursuit of savings and efficiency ideas at Taunton, and having attended Clinical Procurement Specialist Network meetings where we discuss savings, I realised that we did not utilise the huge network we have available to us,” Varley said.

His own trust made savings of £20,000 by introducing a new type of IV dressing, an idea that came from another attendee, who had originally heard the idea from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Varley's trust also saved more than £100,000 by changing suppliers for laparoscopic trocars (medical devices used in abdominal surgery).

Before new products are introduced the procurement team consults with clinical staff, tests the products and gathers feedback and comments, Varley said. Trusts also hold supplier days where products are evaluated in high-usage areas over long periods of time, to ensure they are right for everybody.

“Even though we may have had those [ideas] anyway, when they come to you via another trust it gives you the confidence to press ahead with the change and helps persuade colleagues that the proposed changes are acceptable,” he said.

“I’ve not yet had a failure from implementing an idea from the Swap Shop but I’m sure if there was an issue it would be fed back to the next meeting. That’s its function.”

The meetings, held at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, are open to any trust that wishes to attend and representatives from Bristol, Worcester and the South Western Ambulance Service have recently taken part.

“We’re happy for any trust to attend but there may come a point if we continue to grow where we have to think about running more regional meetings and then those regions swapping ideas,” Varley added.

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