New research has revealed that some hospitals are paying hundreds of pounds more than others for certain standard medical supplies.
The figures, which come from 10 different trusts across England, show that there is a considerable difference in the amounts being paid for items like warming blankets, forceps, stents and other surgical implements.
The data has been published by Ernst and Young and NHS product comparison website Peto, and both organisations agree that hundreds of millions of pounds could be saved every year and that transparency is the key.
“At the root of this problem lies the lack of transparency in the market, leaving trusts unable to make cost-efficient decisions about purchasing supplies,” said Joe Stringer, partner at Ernst and Young.
“With the NHS facing sustained pressure to contain rising costs and demand within a flat budget, transparency must be introduced across the board. The consequences of inaction in the back office will only be felt more acutely in frontline care.”
Adult warming blankets cost an average of £60 for a box of 10 but some trusts fork out more than double that at £124 for the same amount. And the price paid for a pack of medical forceps varies from £13 to £23.
The difference isn’t any less marked for more expensive items either as knee implants are bought for £634 by one trust but another pays £1,109 and managing director of Peto, Julian Trent, says changes need to be made to the procurement process.
“Given the NHS’s £20 billion efficiency drive to cut waste, an obvious place to make savings without compromising patient care is by changing the way NHS buys products and services,” he said.
“Through the simple introduction of price transparency between NHS suppliers this figure can be reduced by £500m.
“Price visibility will reduce costs and generate an opportunity for product suppliers and the NHS alike to deliver maximum value for the public purse.”