A new Amazon.com-style price comparison website for NHS supplies will be launched today in a bid to capitalise on the service’s need to drive down its spending on procurement.
In a statement, the private sector firm behind peto.co.uk said the site would create a “transparent market” for suppliers and the NHS, which would “revolutionise” the system of “postcode pricing and purchasing”.
Procurement in the NHS is highly fragmented, with little scope for trusts to compare their prices with those paid by their peers, and wide variation in prices paid for the same products. A National Audit Office report last year found more than 5,000 products where prices varied by more than 50 per cent.
Aaron Cummins, chair of the Government Procurement Services NHS Customer Board and the Foundation Trust Network Finance Directors Forum, said the new site was “long awaited and could change the way the NHS does business in the future”.
“A tool such as this will enable us to better manage our spend and more importantly understanding what product choices we should be making based on user feedback, akin to how we buy from the likes of Amazon, balanced with complete visibility of costs and alternative products,” he continued. “This new transparent landscape we need to create and sustain is crucial to delivering a cost effective NHS.”
At a Public Accounts Committee hearing last year, Howard Rolfe, who chaired a review of NHS procurement in 1998, told MPs the Department of Health was keen to bring in greater transparency, to reduce the variation in prices paid by different trusts.
“Another tool that can be used for that is some form of e-cataloguing system or Amazon-type operation, so that you can order only from your prescribed catalogue, which has all been prescribed,” he said. “You have total visibility of price on that, and therefore you can… challenge prices compared with other organisations at a senior level.”
Peto said the site would also benefit suppliers, by providing an online “shop window” to every NHS trust, designed to reduce the cost of sales and accelerate take-up of new products.
It added that Peto had launched with over 13,000 supplier products listed on the system, increasing to over 50,000 products by February, and approximately two thirds of NHS trusts participating.
A spokesperson for NHS Supply Chain said: “NHS Supply Chain are in discussions with Peto to understand whether their service could provide a viable benchmarking solution that could add value to the NHS.”