NHS trusts in England have been told to change the way they buy supplies and manage their estates in a drive to cut procurement costs to save as much as £1.5bn a year.
A damning report published by the Department of Health highlights examples of waste within the NHS – such as buying well-known brands of lubricating jelly for £2.77 a pot when cheaper alternatives cost just 98p, using foam dressings priced at £19.87 for a pack of 10, when similar non-branded products can be bought for £11.74 or purchasing packs of 100 surgical gloves at £56.50 when others were available for £34.90.
A new NHS procurement champion, with private-sector expertise, is to be appointed to push for better practice across the health service, including hospitals getting together to bulk-buy equipment at a discount.
Hospitals will be required to publish what they pay for goods and services and a new “price index” will allow them to compare the deals with those obtained by other healthcare providers.
Launching the cash-saving drive, Health Minister Dan Poulter said: “Hospitals must wake up to the potential to make big savings and radically change the way they buy supplies, goods, services and how they manage their estates.
“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.”
The NHS will also be told to cut its £2.4bn annual bill for temporary staff by 25 per cent by the end of 2016.