• Edge4Health designed to improve efficiency, visibility and compliance in procurement
  • Was supposed to be launched in 10 trusts in 2017, and rolled out to around 80 over the next year
  • Platform now live in four trusts, with around 60 to follow

An “Amazon-like” procurement platform has launched in a handful of trusts after almost three years of delays.

NHS Shared Business Services plans to roll out the platform in around 60 trusts over the next few months, HSJ can reveal. 

The Edge4Health, a collaboration between NHS SBS and retail technology firm Virtualstock, displays product details and images in the style of a consumer marketplace. It is hoped the platform will improve compliance, efficiency and data quality.

NHS SBS managing director David Morris said the system may help trusts meet the targets outlined in Lord Carter’s 2015 efficiency review.

The cloud-based platform was originally slated to go live in 10 pilot trusts in April 2017, with roughly 80 to follow over the next year.

But only one organisation — Portsmouth Hospitals Trust — had actually piloted the system as of April 2019. Other trusts helped to “test and refine the platform”, an NHS SBS spokesman said.

The “sheer scale” of developing a platform to work with hundreds of existing NHS systems had caused delays, he added. 

The platform is now being used in four trusts: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust and Cambridgeshire Community Services Trust — which both started using it in November — Sheffield Teaching Hospitals FT, and Portsmouth.

Early experiences have been largely positive. Alan Hoskins, director of procurement and commercial services at NHS South of England Procurement Services, which worked on the project with Portsmouth, told HSJ: “The system rolls out an Amazon-like shopping experience, restricted to contracted and agreed products, and provides a safe and efficient solution to replenish goods.

“During the development stage we encountered a range of challenges as you would with any project of this kind but since going live it has operated effectively and efficiently and continues to improve daily as more suppliers come on board.”

A Cambridgeshire and Peterborough FT spokesman said: “It has received a very positive response from staff and overall we believe the platform will offer a better service for our colleagues and our patients and service users.”

Director of finances and resources at Cambridgeshire Community Services Trust Mark Robbins said: “It is early days, but… we are optimistic that the Edge4Health digital procurement platform will deliver efficiencies through its streamlined and intuitive approach.”

NHS SBS said it was in talks with some Shelford Group trusts to adopt the platform, but a spokeswoman for the group confirmed it was not working with it collectively.

The project’s flagship trust, Guys’ and St Thomas’ FT, is now using rival system GHX Nexus. A spokesman said the organisation tested an early “catalogue module” version of the Edge4Health platform, but did not opt for a proposed “purchase to pay module”.

NHS SBS is a joint venture between the Department of Health and Social Care and technology firm Sopra Steria. It provides services to roughly 40 percent of the NHS. The new procurement platform will be made available to existing customers free of charge.