A government backed review of NHS procurement has been expanded to examine the “concerning” rise in temporary staff bills, its head has revealed to HSJ.

Lord Carter, the Labour peer appointed by the Department of Health to lead the review, said it would seek to assess a broader “scale of opportunities” for savings in the NHS.

The review was originally established to help the DH cut £2bn from the NHS’s £22bn procurement bill by 2015-16.

Lord Patrick Carter

Lord Carter’s review team will examine five areas of expenditure

The peer told HSJ his team is analysing cost data from hospitals across five broad categories of expenditure: drugs; medical devices; consumable goods, such as rubber gloves; estates management; and staffing - with the bill for temporary workers seen as a key priority.

Lord Carter ruled out the development of league tables to keep tabs of trust performance “in the short term”.

However, he hoped his team would provide tools to allow trusts to compare themselves against their peers across the five categories.

“You have to be careful about how league tables are used,” he added. “It would be a bit crass to compare the efficiency of a single site hospital with no [private finance initiative] debt against a hospital spread over many sites with a historical PFI, for example.”

“But done in the right way, you can make meaningful comparisons.

“We need to help trust chief executives and other board members to understand and then have a more sophisticated dialogue about how efficiently they are running their organisations.

“We will work with the DH to develop a series of processes so that this sort of information can be shared between different trusts and acted on.

“It is clear that there is a wide variety of performance by different hospitals in each of these [five broad categories].

“While there is a wide variety, it does seem that cost control and quality travel together.”

Lord Carter refused to say whether the £2bn savings target was achievable. However, he said he hoped to have assessed the “size of the opportunity” by the time he reported to ministers in February.