The NHS can save millions of pounds a year on the products it buys by making a concerted effort to tackle waste, MPs have said.
A report from the Commons public accounts committee revealed that there is “poor” information available about the supplies purchased by health trusts and the amounts they have spent.
It follows a warning in February that an estimated £500m a year was wasted on medical supplies and basic items by the NHS.
The National Audit Office also said lots of different types of the same product were being purchased - even within the same hospital.
A study examined the spending habits of 61 trusts and found that they bought 21 types of A4 paper, 1,751 different cannulas and 652 types of medical gloves.
More than 60 trusts also made more than 1,000 orders for A4 paper every year.
Items can be purchased in a variety of ways from dealing directly with suppliers through either a regional network or a national supplies organisation called the NHS Supply Chain.
The research also found that the NHS Supply Chain is not demonstrating its full value to the NHS.
It said: “In around half of cases, products available through NHS Supply Chain can be more expensive than through other routes, and trusts are not using NHS Supply Chain to the extent that was expected when the contract was set up in 2006.”
Regional purchasing structures were also “confused and lack transparency”, the MPs said.
They warned that trusts - who have been tasked by the government with finding £15-£20bn in the next few years - “will not identify procurement savings and will instead cut elsewhere”.
This is despite the fact more efficient procurement “has the potential to save money without damaging patient care”.