NHS chiefs accused over ‘short-changing’ patients

NHs chiefs have been accused of a “profligate and scandalous waste of money” after huge variations in the costs of common medical products were exposed.

Department of Health officials said there were wide regional differences in the prices paid for items including surgical gloves, anti-blood clot stockings, slings and medical wipes.

They published a procurement atlas after discovering some hospitals were spending “wildly different amounts” to buy exactly the same products.

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The data compares spending by 244 NHS trusts on 100 of the most common products.

It shows some NHS trusts are spending £30 on a box of 100 needles when others are spending just £4 for the same product.

Some pay 50p for a pair of surgical gloves while others shell out £1.28.

And some hospitals are paying £1.84 for 500 sheets of A4 paper - less than half the £4.34 paid by others.

Many hospitals could save more than £600,000 every year by getting the same deals as others on syringes, bandages and paper, officials said.

Figures show the Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS trust stood to make the third biggest savings as a proportion of its budget in the country, worth nearly £300,000 a year. It bought 100 disinfectant wipes for £2.37 - 50p more than those used at the neighbouring Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS trust. It was estimated it could save £73,000 on surgeons’ gloves and nearly £60,000 on needles and syringes.

The Hull and East Yorkshire NHS trust could make the seventh highest savings, while the York, Barnsley, Chesterfield and Sheffield Children’s NHS trusts also fared badly, according to the procurement rankings.

Health Minister Dan Poulter said: “This will help us to end the unacceptable situation where hospitals, sometimes only a few miles apart, are paying wildly different amounts for exactly the same products.

“This is a profligate and scandalous waste of money, and it is patients who are being short-changed.”

A total of £14 billion is spent on hospital procurement each year in England.