Standardised purchasing policy saves money

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Intravenous news: The BBC report “The government hopes smarter procurement can help the NHS in England to save more than £15bn over the next three years – and some hospitals are already proving it can be done.

One of London’s top teaching hospitals has saved the taxpayer more than £300,000 a year – just by changing its order for rubber gloves. Barts and the London NHS Trust used to buy 20 different types of examination gloves for medical staff. But by limiting the choice to just two, the trust’s procurement team has nearly halved the bill. “We spend over £700,000 a year on examination gloves. What we have done now is to move to one supplier, and we will be saving £320,000 this year just by standardising to a better value product,” says Zoe Greenwell, who leads the trust’s procurement team.

It is the kind of common-sense saving that the government is hoping all 168 hospital trusts in England will make. Ministers want to save between £15bn and £20bn from the NHS budget in England over the next three years. And at least £1.2bn of that is expected to come from the hospital procurement budget.

But there is a problem for the government. By 2014 nearly all hospitals will be run as independent foundation trusts, and ministers will have little direct control over their spending priorities.

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