'The opportunity is there,' said Jin Sahota, commercial director of the NHS supply chain at the Department for Health and Social Care ©Daniella Cesarei
'The opportunity is there,' said Jin Sahota, commercial director of the NHS supply chain at the Department for Health and Social Care ©Daniella Cesarei

NHS Supply Chain could expand into services

Service contracts such as the recent scandal-hit clinical waste disposal deal could in future be handled centrally by NHS Supply Chain, SM has learned.

Speaking to SM, Jin Sahota, chief executive of the new NHS supply chain at the Department for Health and Social Care, said there was no reason why services contracts could not eventually be transferred to the centralised system.

But he added NHS Supply Chain was focused on meeting its initial savings target and cautioned against “mission creep”.

NHS Supply Chain is in the process of transferring contracts to a new operating model that will see the organisation buy all medical devices and clinical consumable goods for around 80% of NHS trusts, in a bid to deliver efficiency savings.

The NHS spends £5.7bn annually on medical devices and clinical consumable goods, which fall under the new operating model.

Under the centralised model it is hoped the health service will save £2.4bn over five years.

“For every pound we liberate, it’s one pound that goes back to frontline services,” said Sahota.

However, services contracts – worth £3.3bn across the NHS – will still be procured by individual trusts. This includes clinical waste disposal, where it emerged earlier this month that a major supplier had let 350 tonnes of clinical waste (five times the company's 70 tonne limit), including amputated limbs and infectious liquids, build up at one of its sites.

The failure raised concerns over how such contracts are awarded, and the government is already examining ways to improve the procurement process around them, the Health Service Journal reported.

When asked by SM about the possibility of transferring such contracts to NHS Supply Chain, Sahota said: “There is no reason why at some point we can’t do that. We should be able to do that.

“In future there could be opportunities where we start thinking about what services you can add on. The opportunity is there.”

However the priority is still achieving NHS Supply Chain’s initial savings target, he said.

“It is dangerous to have mission creep. We’ve been really focused on not allowing for that and to deliver what we said we’d deliver government, which is £2.4bn cash-releasing savings,” he said.

Sahota also confirmed to SM that, similar to generic medicines, the NHS was stockpiling consumable goods and devices in case of a no-deal Brexit.

But he said this was not cause for concern as the NHS regularly increases its stocks to meet demand during the winter period.

“One of the advantages of having the NHS Supply Chain is the infrastructure that comes with it,” he said. “We have seven distribution centres across the nation. This is advantageous in one way because, if you are going to stockpile, we are used to having stocks and managing stocks. That’s what we do.

“If you consider us being able to flex our stock levels as we do every year [for the winter period], when we have another reason why we might need to increase and stockpile, we can do it.”

Yesterday, NHS Improvement announced hospitals trusts had saved £288m in the last financial year by streamlining the procurement of commonly bought items including toilet roll and temporary shoes.

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