• Trusts’ savings forecasts from NHS Supply Chain delayed 
  • “Challenging conversations” between procurement and finance chiefs acknowledged
  • NHS Supply Chain hopes new system in place by end of 2019

NHS trusts do not yet know how much they can expect in savings from a new national procurement model thanks to a “system issue”. 

From April, all trusts have had a portion of tariff income from NHS England withheld to fund the operating costs of NHS Supply Chain, which has been through a major reorganisation as part of the government’s bid to centralise the NHS purchasing of common consumables and medical devices.

In return, trusts are supposed to receive savings by using NHS Supply Chain. The savings are expected to range from hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds depending on how much of its equipment a trust sources from NHS Supply Chain. 

But, last month NHS Supply Chain told trusts in a letter, seen by HSJ, it had identified a “system issue”. As a result, each trust’s savings details were “incomplete” and “giving a lower than expected number”.

The organisation acknowledged the “criticality” of the issue and the “challenging conversations” trust procurement chiefs face with their finance teams, as the search for recurrent savings ramps up.

NHS Supply Chain, which has operating costs of around £180m, is trying to share savings available with trusts through “manual reporting”, but this approach does not include all the details required to understand each trust’s full savings forecast. 

The organisation is also testing a new system which it hopes will provide “full reporting capability” by the end of 2019, a spokeswoman told HSJ. This system is being tested with a few of NHS Supply Chain’s customers. 

The spokeswoman said NHS Supply Chain expects the new system to remove the need for manual reporting by “early autumn”.

Trusts’ heads of procurement repeatedly raised concerns about lack of savings details at a Health Care Supply Association conference two weeks ago

Addressing the conference, Chris Holmes, an NHS Supply Chain director, said the company was working hard to get “robust” figures to trusts. 

NHS Supply Chain used to be run by DHL, but it now comprises several specialist procurement companies working across specific categories and is tasked with delivering savings to the NHS worth £2bn by 2022-23. In 2017, an official at the Department of Health and Social Care described the reorganisation as one of the most high-profile programmes in government.

Separately, NHS Improvement is drawing up plans which advocate further centralisation of NHS procurement