NHS Supply Chain said the seven trusts saved £400,000 by changing to one type of examination glove © 123RF
NHS Supply Chain said the seven trusts saved £400,000 by changing to one type of examination glove © 123RF

NHS hospitals save £2m through price matching scheme

A group of NHS hospitals has saved £2m by agreeing to buy the same 11 products in bulk. 

NHS Supply Chain said seven trusts across South Yorkshire had worked together in a price matching scheme for 11 widely used products, including surgical gloves, haemostat products and anti-embolism stockings. Bulk buying power had enabled the trusts to negotiate lower rates. 

By committing to buy a larger quantity of products, the trusts were able to save a total of £2m, NHS Supply Chain said.

This included a saving of £400,000 alone on one type of examination glove. Previously, medical directors and procurement officers at the hospitals had been using a variety of brands and were sometimes paying different prices for the same products.

Des Breen, clinical lead for the South Yorkshire Integrated Care System, said the aim of the initiative was to not only maximise savings by buying in bulk, but for the trusts to come together to choose quality products for use across clinical disciplines.

“A scoring system was used on all of the products to make sure they met the standard needed for use by the NHS, and the products which met all of these and was deemed the best value for money was chosen,” he said.

“We knew we had to take advantage of buying for all the hospitals at the same time; it was a lot of work but well worth it when we think of all the extra services we can use that money to provide for patients.”

The initiative was introduced after a report on price variation in the NHS by Lord Carter in 2016 revealed that hospitals were paying vastly different prices for everyday items, with some paying more than double the price for similar equipment.

The report showed that while some NHS hospitals were paying £4 for a box of 100 syringes, a neighbouring hospital was paying £12. Similarly, the cost of a pack of 100 plasters ranged from £1.68 to £21.76.

The report challenged the NHS to save £700m through improved procurement.

In response, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said £300m could be saved each year if hospitals worked together to get the best deals for suppliers and announced that hospital trusts would be put into a league table to help them compare prices.

Andrew Cash, chief executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the 11 chosen were the best to focus on first to acheive standardisation and savings across the trusts, given they are relatively homogenous. 

“This was a ground breaking procurement exercise for the NHS and credit is due to the medical directors, procurement leads and project management team whose robust and unified approach has resulted in significant savings for the NHS,” he said.

Michael MacDonnell, director of system transformation at NHS England, said there would be many more opportunities for savings on other products using South Yorkshire’s approach.

“The South Yorkshire programme demonstrates how neighbouring hospitals can team up to improve clinical quality and reduce waste, working together as integrated systems – it also shows what can be achieved when clinicians take charge,” he said. 

“There are many savings out there just waiting to be discovered and reinvested which have absolutely no effect on patient care and £2m can make a huge difference to other patients when it is reinvested locally like this money will be.”

The 11 products bought in bulk:

  • Examination gloves
  • Sterile surgical gloves
  • Medical pulp
  • Haemostats
  • Anti-embolism stockings
  • Tissues adhesives
  • Blunt fill needles
  • Film dressings
  • Surgical sutures
  • Single use tourniquets
  • Syringes and needles
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