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NHS ‘could save millions on waste’

20 May 2011

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The NHS could save millions of pounds a year on the products it buys by tackling waste, MPs have said.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee revealed that there is “poor” information over the amount that health trusts purchase and the amount they spend.

Their findings followed a warning in February that an estimated £500m a year is wasted in NHS procurement of medical supplies and basic items.

The National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that lots of different types of the same product were being purchased – even within the same hospital.

Research on 61 NHS trusts revealed that they purchased 21 types of A4 paper, 652 types of medical gloves and 1,751 different cannulas.

The findings also showed that more than 60 trusts made over 1,000 orders for A4 paper every year.

Trusts purchase items in various ways – dealing directly with thousands of suppliers through a national supplies organisation called the NHS Supply Chain, or via regional networks.

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But the report found the NHS Supply Chain was not demonstrating its value to the NHS.

“In around half of cases, products available through NHS Supply Chain can be more expensive than through other routes, and trusts are not using NHS Supply Chain to the extent that was expected when the contract was set up in 2006,” it stated.

Regional purchasing structures were also “confused and lack transparency”, the MPs said.

They warned that trusts – who have been tasked by the government with finding £15-£20bn in the next few years – “will not identify procurement savings and will instead cut elsewhere”.

This is despite the fact more efficient procurement “has the potential to save money without damaging patient care”.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

National Audit Office