Health and social care

Confirmed impacts: Improving the procurement of consumables by NHS trusts

This impacts case study shows how our work motivated the Department for Health to develop a tool and coding system that standarised and reduced consumables procurement costs in the NHS.

It is one example of financial or non-financial benefits realised in 2014 as a result of our involvement, all of which are set out in our interactive PDF.

Selection of sticking plasters

Impacts case study

Our 2011 report on the procurement of consumables by NHS acute and foundation trusts concluded that trusts were paying widely varying prices for the same products, and that there was a need for much greater transparency in the prices being paid to suppliers by individual trusts. We recommended that the Department of Health require the NHS to adopt standard product bar coding to improve procurement data and enable price comparisons. This would help trusts to improve their financial sustainability through cost savings.

What are impacts?

The department recognised that our study was a powerful lever for change and committed to adopt a standard product coding system for the NHS. In July 2014, it launched the ‘NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation’, which shows differences in the amount hospital trusts pay for everyday items including catheters, gloves and needles. This tool helps hospitals to compare prices and identify where they need to drive down costs so they can invest more in improving front line services.