With shrinking NHS budgets, it can be difficult for hospitals and medical practices to decide where and when to spend their precious funds on medical equipment and supplies. Last year, Health Minister Simon Burns revealed that alternative ways of buying supplies and equipment could save the NHS £1.2 billion, which could then be reinvested in patient care.
It’s not just the expensive medical diagnostic equipment that will save the pounds either. Simple things such as changing their supplier for latex gloves and sutures can also make a real difference. As well as medical equipment, Mr Burns also wants the NHS to look at its suppliers for catering and energy.
A £300 million cash fund has been established by the Department of Health, together with the NHS Supply Chain, in order to enable the NHS to save money by bulk buying large equipment, including ultrasound machines, MRI scanners, CT scanners and technology relating to cancer treatment. This has allowed the NHS to save £11 million already.
The NHS has previously found it difficult to control its buying and spending power because there was a lack of knowledge between local hospitals about what equipment was needed.
Speaking about the issue, Mr Burns said: “Waste is unacceptable when we know there are simple solutions. That is why the NHS needs to buy smarter and get the best value for the taxpayer for every penny spent.
“We know that at least £1.2 billion could be saved over the next four years if the NHS innovatively changes the way it buys good and services. Already, over £11 million has been saved through bulk-buy discounts on the cash fund. This is the first step to better, smarter procurement in the NHS and we will be working closely with hospital trusts over the next six months to help them save even more money that can be reinvested in patient care.”
MRI and CT scanners only have a recommended life of about ten years, at which point they need updating or replacing. The NHS estimate that around 200 of these items will need replacing over the next couple of years and so significant discounts will be able to be made through bulk buying deals.
The Cash Fund investment allows the NHS Supply Chain to secure these bulk buying deals with suppliers. The Managing Director of Business Solutions for NHS Supply Chain, Andy Brown, said: “This important development will allow NHS Supply Chain to group together the purchasing power of the NHS for this vital equipment, make large commitments to suppliers and bring improved planning to the management and replacement of this equipment across the NHS and with suppliers.”
Of course, it is not just on the big ticket items where money can be saved. By working hard to save costs in every aspect of the NHS, from supplies of medical gloves through to large diagnostic equipment, the money saved can be reinvested in improving services and quality of care for patients, something which the NHS badly needs following recent devastating reports surrounding Stafford Hospital.