A new NHS procurement platform has been developed as part of efforts to standardise purchasing in the health service.
The Edge4Health, developed by NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) and tech firm Virtualstock, is a cloud-based consumer-style marketplace with almost 1m products.
Four NHS trusts have gone live with The Edge4Health, with 1,000 employees using the platform to buy thousands of goods and services each day, and it is in the process of being rolled out across the health service.
Product details and updates, such as stock-outs, specification changes or discontinued lines, can be uploaded to the system by suppliers, a shift from previous practice where the onus was on NHS organisations to manage their own catalogues.
Activities such as managing contracts and approving prices can be carried out within the platform, while requisitioners only see the products and prices that have been pre-approved by hospital procurement teams.
The platform is interoperable with systems such as Ingenica, Integra, Omnicell and Oracle, enabling buyers to manage purchase-to-pay processes all in the same place. Suppliers and customers can communicate directly on the platform, reducing the number of time-consuming queries.
Additional functionality is being developed including rating and reviewing products and checking on a supplier’s cyber security.
The Edge4Health was developed in partnership with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, led by NHS South of England Procurement Services (SoEPS). The trust is using the platform along with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. In the last three months more than £8m of spend has gone through the platform.
Alan Hoskins, director of procurement at SoEPS, said: “Some of the key attractions of The Edge4Health for procurement teams across the NHS are that it’s an intuitive consumer-style platform, which helps hospital staff to easily buy products against a contract, and means far less procurement team time is spent on the admin around managing catalogues.
“We were particularly keen to enhance the user experience for those within our own trust by providing them with an efficient, easy-to-use system. A big positive for us is having supplier-managed catalogues to enable the reallocation of resource – to allow our team to do more valuable work with suppliers around contract negotiations and monitoring, as well as more on the reporting side.
“In addition, The Edge4Health should really reduce the number of invoice queries, which I’m sure the majority of NHS procurement teams would currently describe as a frustrating and time-consuming problem.”
David Morris, managing director at NHS SBS, a 50-50 joint venture between the Department of Health and Social Care and IT firm Sopra Steria, said: “With The Edge4Health, many of the benefits we’re used to as consumers will become available to the NHS for the first time. The intuitive and easy-to-use platform meets the demands of a modern, forward-thinking NHS and will eliminate many of the barriers that – until now – have prevented NHS hospitals from fully meeting Lord Carter’s efficiency targets.”
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