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Suture Project Delivers 20% Saving for Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

29 June 2020
Working with NHS Supply Chain helped facilitate implementation of a new supplier, in a complex market, that is often controversial. The partnership working of the trust, NHS Supply Chain and the supplier has ensured a smooth and compliant transition to high quality, clinically acceptable products that have delivered cash-releasing savings. Without all parties working together the project would have been much harder to facilitate.Mr Khaled Farag - Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Lead of the cancer service and laparoscopic surgery, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust


Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust operates Barnsley Hospital, a 500-bed hospital serving more than 250,000 people in South West Yorkshire. The hospital provides a full range of district hospital services. Last year, it cared for more than 61,000 patients in the hospital, saw 268,000 in clinic appointments and treated 78,000 in the emergency department. Barnsley Hospital’s services are provided by around 3,600 staff and 300 volunteers.

Key Achievements:

  • A 20% reduction in costs, saving more than £20,000 this financial year
  • A smooth, compliant move to high quality, clinically acceptable alternative products.
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Objectives of the Suture Project

  • To make savings by switching suture brand.
  • To use a suture brand that is clinically acceptable across the trust’s departments.
  • To clinically evaluate suture products across all clinical specialities and ensure they meet clinical expectations and that products were like for like.
  • To ensure that suture products are delivered across the trust without any clinical complications.
  • To complete a successful trial of the products.

The Challenge: Making Sustainable Cash Savings

What was the problem?

  • The trust spends £158,000 on sutures, or wound closures, annually.
  • The trust wanted to make sustainable cash savings whilst continuing to use products that surgeons would be happy to use.

The Solution

NHS Supply Chain offered the trust access to a breadth of clinically acceptable products and the ability to retain close working relationships with suppliers, while remaining compliant. They also ensured that new products were set up on the trust’s systems and were available to use within agreed project timings.

New sutures were introduced in small quantities of two or three per week to make the process manageable, keep surgeons happy and theatre staff only had to learn a few new product codes at a time.

The trust had an agreement with the surgeons from the outset that they would only change a code if it was a like for like product. By working closely with Assut UK Ltd (Assut Europe Spa) they ensured a smooth transition and that surgeons didn’t experience any change in the practice or feel of the product. In one case, Assut UK Ltd (Assut Europe Spa) manufactured the material of some of the sutures to match the colour of the existing product to provide familiarity of the suture material of the existing product range. While this process took longer, it ensured the success and sustainability of the project.

This process was also supported by the trust’s teams in Procurement, General Management, and Theatre Management, as well as the Clinical Director and clinical staff. Clinical Engagement and Implementation Manager Ian Dodd led for NHS Supply Chain.

Process Undertaken

  1. A more structured implementation approach was needed, so that clinicians could get used to the products and coding before a full roll out.
  2. Procurement and clinical teams worked together to identify areas and opportunities where products could be introduced and to increase an awareness of the new suture materials and the new product codes.
  3. Implemented to theatres and departments for formal evaluation and clinical sign off.
  4. Full implementation across the trust following the evaluation process.

The Benefits

  • High quality suture products were identified that are clinically acceptable
  • Changes to sutures have no detrimental effects to clinical outcomes
  • A range of sutures that are like for like with the previous range
  • 20% saving in costs.

The Results

A 20% reduction in suture costs – more than £20,000 in this financial year

Working in partnership with NHS Supply Chain gave access to a breadth of clinically acceptable alternative products, and also ensured that new products were set up on the trust’s systems.

  • A saving of £20,000 has been made in this financial year.
  • The project is expected to deliver a saving of £30,000 against a previous annual spend of £158,000, in the full financial years to come.

Next Steps

If you’d like to understand how we can support your trust to deliver savings in this area, please speak to your NHS Supply Chain Account Manager.