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NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation

Monday 28 July 2014

The Department of Health’s recently launched NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation shows differences in the amount hospitals pay for everyday items including catheters, gloves and needles.

It has been developed by the Department of Health, to deliver greater transparency by comparing the prices paid by different trusts for the same types of products.

“NHS Supply Chain supports the Department of Health’s call to NHS trust boards to optimise the value they get from their non-pay spend, develop their procurement capability and the drive for greater collaboration and greater transparency,” says Joanna Timmerman, Managing Director at NHS Supply Chain.

The initial version of the Atlas shows variation in prices paid for commonly used items across a snapshot of 100 product lines, pricing may vary for a number of reasons, which include:

  • Banded pricing according to volume
  • Different brands for products within the same category
  • Pricing based on commitment
  • Regional pricing
  • Price changes throughout the year
  • Pallet pricing.

The benchmark pricing is based on the average price paid during 2013/14 and excludes any commitment discounts and rebates – some of which play a significant role in driving savings.

The data covers all products deemed as like for like – which may be over a large range of products from different suppliers. Better value alternative products may be available (via NHS Supply Chain’s Compare and Save Programme) where a trust sees a high average price; although clinical preference and specialism will play a role here (e.g. needles).

The Department of Health has advised NHS Supply Chain that the data featured in the Atlas has been normalised for multiple units of issue. So the prices in the Atlas are not necessarily the prices for the unit of issue, they are the prices for a certain number of units, all of which are explained in the Metadata document, available with the Atlas.

The Department of Health has provided us with a statement explaining the data analysis in further detail and provided contact details should trusts have questions about the analysis – please click here to view.

“Although the data in the Atlas of Variation originated with NHS Supply Chain, we do not have access to the analysis conducted and are unable to breakdown the Department of Health’s analysis further,” says Joanna Timmerman. “We do however support that the analysis conducted by the Department of Health provides a good indication of savings potential and we would guide trusts to the total opportunity that exists today from review of the NHS Supply Chain Trust Savings Packs which Account Managers are currently working through with their trust procurement colleagues.”

“To realise the challenging savings that are required from the NHS, via procurement, NHS trusts should continue to work with NHS Supply Chain to review the total savings opportunities available to them today. We are currently successfully working with a number of trusts with our Trust Savings Packs, which are delivering considerable savings whilst we continue to drive our category strategies to create future value for the NHS” explains Joanna Timmerman.

NHS Supply Chain supports the Government’s focus on transparency of information which is a priority element of the NHS procurement efficiency programme. The transparency initiative includes the requirement for NHS Providers to publish more procurement information, including prices paid. The NHS Atlas of Variation aims to allow trusts to identify savings opportunities and work with NHS Supply Chain to achieve better value.

To understand the full savings opportunities available to your trust, via your bespoke Trust Savings Pack, please speak to your NHS Supply Chain Account Manager.

Download the Department of Health's statement

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