NHS is buying stationery and supplies at double high street price

The NHS is buying stationery and supplies at double the cost of the high street prices. 

Trusts paid twice the amount for loo roll and blew £2.10 for a pack of four whiteboard pens which can be bought for a £1 in Poundland.

The health service spends £55.6billion a year on general supplies and medical equipment, according to The Telegraph.

Trusts spend about £9 billion a year buying goods and services — while a third goes on everyday costs, such as transport and stationery.

But not every trust is paying the same.

Hospitals across the country are routinely paying above the odds for everyday items such as toilet rolls, office paper and detergent wipes. 

Horror examples have come to light in the last year, including Royal Berkshire in Reading – almost paid £855 for a simple blackout blind – which could have been purchased for less than £25.

Former Ministers who have tried to tackle the problem believe the waste is costing the NHS at least £2 billion a year – and perhaps as much as £5 billion. 

The latest figures showed despite warnings two years ago, the problem is still costing millions.

One trust paid £8.29 for a box of A4 paper while another was charged nearly a third more at £10.62.

Numbers also show that despite the fact the NHS is buying in bulk, it is not receiving any discounted rates and in many cases is spending more than the cost of items on sale to the general public.

Elsewhere NHS hospitals paid £4.42 per 30 bed pads – which was 12 per cent more than other available but smaller packs. 

Currently the NHS mainly buys its supplies through the NHS Supply Chain system which is run by German logistics firm DHL.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund, an independent health think tank, told the Daily Telegraph the system is so varied trusts even record prices differently.

Some, submit costs by item price and others add additional costs such as delivery  – leading to large price variants. 

Mr Anandaciva told The Telegraph: ‘There is no doubt that considerable variation remains in how much different parts of the NHS pay for goods and supplies.

‘However, even accepting these issues, substantial unwarranted variation remains – partly because different NHS organisations use different products for similar types of treatment, and partly because they pay different prices for the same product.

‘There has been a lack of data on what different organisations are paying and a fragmented approach to using the NHS’s collective buying power to best effect, with organisations often operating as islands rather than archipelagos.’  

Comissioners who have the role of stocking NHS practices say Supply Chain buying is difficult due to items being much more expensive through the system than they would be on the High Street.

However, it is to be replaced this year by a new system, which could save the NHS hundreds of millions.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called discrepancies ‘baffling’ and will oversee a plan to save £810million with a new system of buying hospital supplies. 

Mr Anandaciva said: ‘There is some good work under way to improve efficiency and productivity, but there is lots more that could be done.’ NHS Improvement said changes will help it save £810million in the next two years. 


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