Many NHS hospitals in England paying too much for supplies

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

An assessment by Ernst & Young has revealed that many NHS Trusts in England are paying over the odds for medical supplies.  This comes at a time when the NHS is under huge pressure to find savings.  A statement by the government earlier this year announced plans for a “world class” procurement system which would include cash funds to allow bulk buying of equipment such as MRI scanners and claimed that purchasing could save the health service in England at least £1.2bn over the next 4 years.

10 out of 166 NHS hospital trusts were looked at in the report.  The report highlights big variations in spending on a wide range of medical products.  One example from the report shows that the price paid for an identical box of blankets ranged from £47 to more than £120.  There were also big variations revealed across a range of other hospital supplies.

The Department of Health says that it is developing a new barcoding system intended to help hospitals negotiate better prices.  It is said that it will increase transparency, save money and make care safer.

Joe Stringer from Ernst & Young said that trusts were reluctant to share information for fear of helping their competitors.  He described the discrepancies as ‘staggering’ and said “With the NHS facing sustained pressure to contain rising costs and demand within a flat budget, transparency must be introduced across the board.  The consequences of inaction in the back office will only be felt more acutely in front-line care.”

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