• New online procurement platform to be rolled out across NHS providers by summer 2018 at the latest
  • Pilot planned to start at trusts this autumn
  • NHS Shared Business Services chief says “clear governance” is key to STPs achieving back-office savings 

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A new procurement platform which aims to bring millions of pounds worth of savings to the NHS is expected to be rolled out to trusts by summer 2018 “at the latest”.

The Edge for Health system is planned to be piloted at eight trusts this autumn, with wider implementation scheduled for summer 2018.

However in an interview with HSJ, David Morris – managing director of NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) – said the date for the platform to become fully operational may be brought forward.

Mr Morris also said clear governance structures needed to be established for sustainability and transformation plans to ensure efficiency savings could be made by sharing services.

The Edge for Health is being developed by SBS and retail technology firm Virtualstock, with the aim of delivering some of the procurement savings outlined in the Lord Carter review of NHS efficiency.

While the platform is aimed at making savings from procurement as envisaged by Lord Carter, it is not part of his or NHS Improvement’s own current programmes of work.

It is intended that NHS trusts, including those that are not SBS clients, will be able to use the platform free of charge.

Last month HSJ reported that the piloting of the platform had been delayed (from April to autumn) due to the scale of developing the complex system.

Mr Morris, who has described the platform as an “Amazon-style online marketplace”, said: “We’re going to have our first clients going live in autumn – we’re on track for that.

“We’ve delayed the go-live to make sure we get it right for early-adopter clients.

“We looked to roll it out to all our provider trusts by the summer of 2018, but we’re reviewing that timetable at the moment. It could be before the summer of 2018.

Mr Morris said the level of savings the platform can generate depends on “how much spend we get going through the system and how quickly adoption is by clients” – but he added they would be “significant savings”.

Meanwhile SBS is working with local health chiefs to identify ways of achieving Carter-recommended efficiencies through sharing services.

Mr Morris said his organisation has talked to officers from around half of the country’s 44 STPs, adding: “We’ve engaged with a good number in terms of more detailed analysis”. 

But, he warned STPs need clear governance structures.

“We have seen in STP areas there are different trusts moving at different paces and it comes back to gaining consensus, putting the right governance in place, enabling decisions to be made so targets can be hit and savings made,” he said.

“It comes back to clear governance. There’s got to be an STP-wide governance structure put in place.”

SBS, set up in 2005 as a joint venture between the Department of Health and information technology consultancy Sopra Steria, provides services for the NHS within procurement, finance and accounting, and employment.

Among its aims is to deliver £1bn of savings to the NHS by 2020, with more than £400m achieved so far since its inception.

SBS provides services for more than a third of NHS trusts, as well as GPs, NHS commissioning bodies, and suppliers.