23 August 2001 | David Arminas
Hospital ward nursing managers across England will be given purchasing cards for the first time to spend on improvements they feel will benefit patients.
The annual improvements budget is £5,000 per ward. The card is backed by Visa and the National Westminster Bank, which offers the NHS preferential terms through an arrangement with the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (Pasa).
According to a Department of Health (DoH) spokesperson, the money is expected to be spent on a wide range of items, including bookcases, furniture, uniforms for ward clerks, children's safety gates and educational activities.
Up to now, nurses had to apply to trust managers for equipment, but after a successful pilot scheme at 11 trusts, covering 247 wards, the DoH reckons half of all ward managers will be using the card by March 2002.
Marcus Brindle, associate director of purchasing for Pasa, said the card had ensured that requisition and invoicing costs were unnecessary.
"It's all about devolved purchasing and reducing bureaucracy, giving power to nurses at the sharp end," he said. "The government aims to cut process costs and save the NHS money.
"The average trust has a £20 million a year non-pay spend and a few thousand pounds is a drop in the bucket."
• The NHS has launched an interactive vehicle leasing website in conjunction with 10 contracted suppliers. The site has regularly updated rates, vehicle options including model, fuel type and carbon dioxide emissions and the national contract. The NHS leases about 25,000 vehicles a year on a £21 million budget.