The Department of Health has appointed Labour peer Lord Carter as the NHS’s “procurement champion” to help the service save up to £2bn on its budget, HSJ has learned.

The DH expects to hit the ambitious target of between £1.5bn and £2bn by 2015-16 through savings on the NHS non-pay expenditure bill.

Lord Carter - made a life peer in 2004 - has worked with the NHS before, having chaired a review of NHS pathology services, and has also served as president of electronic patient records system provider McKesson’s International Operations Group.

HSJ understands the DH, which confirmed the appointment today, was drawn to Lord Carter because of his mix of private sector experience and in-depth knowledge of the health service.  

Senior NHS figures told HSJ the appointment was “very encouraging” because of the commercial expertise he would bring, but also because he was a supporter of the NHS.

The DH announced it would be appointing a procurement champion in its review document Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care, which was published in August last year.

The document said a “new NHS procurement development oversight board” would be established and a “leading private sector figurehead” would “act as a ‘procurement champion’ and support delivery of the programme”.

It added: “[The] new NHS procurement development delivery board will be the engine room to ensure all NHS organisations, including NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Monitor and the Foundation Trust Network, are working to a common strategy for NHS procurement, drawing in private sector expertise and best practice.”

The NHS spends over £20bn annually on goods and services - or non-pay role expenditure - which typically accounts for around 30 per cent of the operating costs of each hospital, according to the DH.

Health minister Dan Poulter said: “I am delighted by Lord Carter’s appointment. He will bring a wealth of experience to the NHS Procurement and Efficiency Programme, which will help hospitals to cut waste and save money which can then be spent on frontline patient care.”

Lord Hunt, president of the Health Care Supply Association, said: “I very warmly welcome the appointment of Lord Carter to the procurement champion role.

“Patrick Carter has an excellent track record of delivery across a number of key areas. I, along with my [association] colleagues, greatly looks forward to working with him.”