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Sampling a new NHS where change and improvement can flourish

Thursday 30 June 2011

A three month trial on co-ordinating the provision of selective samples to hospitals and clinics has been extended by NHS Supply Chain.

The new system offers a structured approach for trusts to access the wide range of products available on contract and trial a selected product in advance of making an informed buying decision.  In this way the trust can be sure that the product is right for them and realise possible savings opportunities throughout the trust much quicker.

Customer Service Manager Alex Fletcher and co-ordinator Simon Walker operate the helpline response to trusts and clinics who request samples from the online catalogue.

Alex explained: “Properly managed samples can offer trusts a chance to look at the products which they are not currently using and make informed decisions.

“Drivers like QIPP 91 for standardisation of products are just as valid as those changes forced because an item may have changed or been withdrawn, or for new product innovations. 

“Either way the buyers in the NHS need to find a solution which helps to meet the precise needs of their trust, but with the reassurance that the products have the necessary quality to do the job and staff are comfortable using them.”

The new process includes a detailed audit trail about the samples and the feedback from the trial which is valuable intelligence for anyone in the NHS family.

The pilot makes requesting a sample quick and easy. We use a standard request template to gather the information which is concise and efficient for both customers and suppliers. Feedback forms are also provided which allows NHS Supply Chain and the supplier to gain valuable insight on the suitability for their trust of the product being sampled.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust took advantage of the sampling service in May 2011 and this June switched to the new “Save” offer from NHS Supply Chain.

Senior Buyer for the trust, Andrew Pettit, explained: “Last year we used 56,226 reams of paper for stationery and we have made the switch because we could test it and make sure it could do the job at the same time as meeting environmental and cost savings.

“We have now taken it on board because based on our expected same usage of stationery this year, using the new paper represents a potential saving of £7,309.38 or 5.3%. Sampling let us try before we buy and it worked out for us.”

Alex added : “We can then co-ordinate the responses to give statistical details as well as a full list of anonymous comments which provide real intelligence for our buyers and account managers.”

Simon Walker co-ordinates the requests from the designated trial personnel in the trust and facilitates with the relevant supplier. There is an increasing number of suppliers who are happy to support sample trialling when conducted as part of an intended trust wide product change.

“Our NHS customers expect quality and value for money, and our “try before you buy” process is a very welcome and necessary support of customer service.”

For further details email


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Notes to editors

About NHS Supply Chain
NHS Supply Chain is a government contract operated by DHL since 2006.  It supports the National Health Service (NHS) and other healthcare organisations in England and Wales by providing end to end supply chain solutions.

The organisation was formed from the NHS Logistics Authority and parts of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (NHS PASA).   It is operated by DHL on behalf of the NHS Business Services Authority and aims to provide over £1 billion of savings to the NHS by 2016.

The NHS Supply Chain contract manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products and food for over 1,000 NHS trusts and healthcare organisations.  It provides a single point of access to over 620,000 products ranging from bandages to sutures, from gloves to implants, and even diagnostic equipment such as MRI scanners.

Its management of the procurement process negates an NHS organisation’s need to tender through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Costs can also be reduced through its one-route solution that consolidates all products onto one invoice and delivery – this saves up to £1 per product in back office administration costs and removes up to 40 deliveries going into a trust compared with ordering goods separately.

To ensure that its products are fit for today’s healthcare market, NHS Supply Chain works with suppliers of all sizes to ensure its range embraces high quality and innovative products; and engages with clinicians, the Department of Health and academic institutions to make sure that it is aware of the current requirements and latest developments in clinical practice.

NHS Supply Chain’s product areas include:

  • theatres
  • dental
  • audiology
  • catering, including food
  • infection control
  • orthopaedics
  • rehabilitation
  • capital equipment, including finance and maintenance.

Based in Alfreton, Derbyshire, UK, the business employs around 2,400 staff in eight locations.

Delivering value to the NHS