A “procurement champion with private sector expertise” is to be appointed to lead the NHS’s push to get a better deal on its supplies.

Health minister Dan Poulter this morning announced recruitment would start immediately for the role.

He also said a “price index” for hospitals would allow trusts to compare their spending on different products and that he would cut the national bill for temporary staff of £2.4bn by a quarter.

The announcement was made alongside the release of the Department of Health’s procurement strategy.

The document, Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care: A procurement development programme for the NHS, reported a lack of consistency and senior oversight in procurement and said the NHS over-relies on framework deals with suppliers.

Dr Poulter will lead a committee dedicated to driving down the NHS’s £18bn procurement bill.

HSJ has previously reported the Department of Health’s recognition that some suppliers will lose business as the NHS tries to cut costs, and that orthopaedic supplies will be a particular focus for savings.

The DH has not yet set out how its “champion” will “mandate” foundation trusts to share data or participate in other centrally-run procurement programmes.

The Foundation Trust Network has previously criticised suggestions that its members should “comply” with DH procurement programmes or explain why they have not.

FTN chief executive Chris Hopson welcomed the strategy but said “[while it] provides answers they will only work if there is a true partnership between trusts, the central NHS, suppliers and intermediary purchasing organisations.”

Dr Poulter said: “We must end the scandalous situation where one hospital spends hundreds of thousands more than another hospital just down the road on something as simple as rubber gloves or syringes, simply because they haven’t got the right systems in place to ensure value for money for local patients. 

“This kind of poor resource management cannot go on, and this radical new strategy will help the NHS get a grip on wasteful spending to drive real change and improved procurement practices so that more of our NHS’s resources can be spent on frontline patient care.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Healthcare Industries said: “If the NHS is to maximise the value of their ‘non-pay spend’ there will have to be a change of mind-set. Far too often the NHS ‘thinks nationally’ but ‘behaves locally’ when it comes to interactions with suppliers.”

The strategy document said the new approach to buying orthopaedic supplies would be trialled in the north-west.

The DH anticipates “clinically-led procurement at scale” can produce savings of between 10 and 15 per cent.

The document said: “We think the business model by which orthopaedic suppliers sell to the NHS is inefficient, outdated and not in the best interests of either party.

“We expect this work will also lead to a new relationship with industry that is built on partnership and value, rather than price and sales.”

The DH hopes this model will become a template for working with industry in other “high-value medical technology areas”. It said clinical procurement review partnerships, would be charged with “weighing up the balance between medical benefit and value for money”.