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NHS Scotland is failing to make progress on management of NHS supplies, despite a welter of initiatives and 10 reports in the past 20 years, according to Audit Scotland.

In a report published last week, the watchdog says supplies management remains fragmented and fails to demonstrate value for money. Systems are so poor it is not even possible to say how much money is being wasted, it adds.

Trusts are not benefiting from possible savings through bulk orders because national contracts are not treated as mandatory and are undermined by trusts negotiating directly with suppliers.

There is also disagreement about which supplies should be bought at local, regional and national levels, while basic management information is not available, making it difficult to monitor expenditure and use.

Deputy auditor general Caroline Gardner said: 'At least one previous study has suggested potential savings of£30m a year.

While we agree that there are potentially substantial savings to be made, without better information from trusts it is impossible to say whether this figure is realistic.'

The report, In Good Supply?

Managing supplies in the NHS in Scotland, says more needs to be done to exploit IT and that there should be a national approach.Ms Gardner added: 'Previous initiatives... have not made the progress they should have.What we want is trusts to have good management information so they can set sensible targets for improving performance and monitor their progress towards them.'

The Scottish Executive welcomed the report.A spokesperson said: 'We have already implemented measures... for example, materials management and topup systems are in place in wards in at least 11 trusts, helping eliminate waste and achieve savings through tighter controls.'

www. audit-scotland. gov. uk