Care service is missing a deal on essential items

The Royal Preston Hospital in Fulwood, Preston
The Royal Preston Hospital in Fulwood, Preston
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The first NHS efficiency table has revealed discrepancies in what Lancashire health trusts have spent on essential items.

The data compares spending of the most common products by 244 NHS Trusts, with some commentors suggesting that overall, more than £1bn could be saved across the NHS from its £14 billion budget if all Trusts paid the lowest rates.

Until now, commercial confidentiality clauses have meant the health service has not disclosed details of such spending, but health minister Dr Dan Poulter has ordered changes in a bid to “name and shame” the worst offenders and ensure they negotiate better deals.

Nationally some hospitals have been spending eight times as much as others to buy exactly the same products, but although the Trusts in Lancashire vary, they are not so widely different.

However, the table shows Lancashire Care typically getting worse deals than Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and NWAS on items such as facial tissues, examination gloves, polythene aprons and pre-filled syringes.

Lancashire Care spent £3.91 for every 100 units of gloves compared to £2.92 by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and £2.69 by NWAS.

Lancashire Care also spent more than the other two trusts on facial tissues. It paid £53.09 per 100 units, compared to £50.37 by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and £51.37 by NWAS.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust welcomed the changes, but said the data was out of date.

He said: “The Trust is constantly looking at ways to obtain the best value for money and consequently will use the information provided in the efficiency tables as another tool in our negotiations with suppliers.

“However, it is important to note that many of the figures quoted in the tables are either incorrect or out of date.

“Due to ongoing work on product rationalisation and standardisation the prices currently being paid by the Trust are considerably lower than those stated.

“There are also many variables that affect the prices paid by each Trust which are not explained in the tables.

“These include the geographical footprint and storage capacity within the Trust, the number and type of services performed, or indeed the needs of the service users, all of which must be taken into consideration when comparing costs.”

The Trust said that since publication, the price paid for 100 gloves is now £2.40, they now pay £3.20 for a roll of coloured aprons, and 100 units of facial tissues now costs £48.

Bosses at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals have also raised questions over comparisons between Trusts, claiming demands are different, and quality of goods vary.

Paul Havey, finance director of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We always aim to get the best deals possible when we buy services and goods.

“In the past two years we have reviewed our procurement processes, and established a central strategic procurement team which has worked hard to implement competitive tendering, renegotiate contracts, standardise what we buy, and achieve economies of scale.

“These improvements resulted in savings of more than £6m in 2013-14, and we are aiming to achieve a further reduction of £8m in the coming year.

“We welcome the publication of procurement information as we believe the NHS should be transparent, however the data published last month does not take into account the quality or volume of goods procured, and so it does not accurately represent the procurement effectiveness of any organisation.

“We will continuously strive to reduce costs and deliver value for money, enabling us to balance our books and invest in improving the quality of care we provide.”

NWAS director of finance, Alan Stuttard, said: “The Trust has a dedicated Procurement and Supplies department that collaborates with and enlists the services of regional and national procurement organisations in order to manage its contracting requirements.

“We work with the NHS North West Procurement Development Office (NWPD), the National Ambulance Procurement Hub, NHS Shared Business Services (NHSSBS) and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) with the objective of obtaining better quality and better value for money.

“In addition the Trust purchases standardised medical equipment and consumables, such as examination gloves, syringes and wipes from NHS Supply Chain (NHSSC) who work with a range of suppliers to deliver high-quality, cost-effective products.

“As a responsible public organisation, we endeavour to achieve best value for money with all expenditure.”