eDirect in Focus – a project designed to enhance capability

eDirect in Focus: A project designed to enhance capability

eDirect is an established NHS Supply Chain ordering route. It enables us to offer products to the NHS not currently stocked in our warehouses. Customers order products through our catalogue that are delivered directly from the supplier. This can provide a more expedient delivery experience to our customers.

Currently, 656 customers transact with us regularly through eDirect, with over one million orders spending approximately £800 million each year. On average, 50% of total customer spend is transacted successfully through the eDirect channel.

Through the eDirect service, we strive to provide efficient and speedy delivery routes of goods and services to the NHS.

eDirect project aim

Our aim is to ensure that we provide confidence in eDirect so that our customers can use it to its optimum, delivering the great outcomes in terms of quality, savings, and service we strive for.

Gayle Cooper, eDirect Customer Portfolio Project Manager

We will achieve this through a range of activities, some of which are already in progress, including:

  • Continue customer engagement to ensure that our work is driven by our customers.
  • Undertaking a root cause issue review.
  • Reviewing and changing NHS Supply Chain processes to fill in any “gaps”.
  • Making identified improvements to the online ordering experience.
  • Working with our suppliers to improve service levels and enhance total service offering.
  • Understanding how our customers own IT and Procure to Pay systems interact with NHS Supply Chain ordering systems.
  • Improving our communication channels.

The eDirect project is working in parallel with our Core Technology Refresh project, which is in itself making additional and supporting improvements to the customer experience of the eDirect as a channel. See our Useful Links section for further information on the Core Technology Refresh project.

Working with you

From the start, we have placed the customer at the centre of our eDirect project. We have been engaging with trusts and suppliers through a series of deep dive workshops. We have delved into the good, the bad, and the indifferent perceptions of eDirect as a service. We asked our partners to identify what is the most important part of the eDirect system to improve. These sessions have been invaluable in terms of identifying and prioritising the key areas of our focus.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has paused physical meetings. However, we have continued discussions with our customers and suppliers through emails, webinars and surveys.

Our customers asked questions across three key areas of eDirect:



Can suppliers be consistent with order referencing on paperwork?
Why does some of my order or delivery paperwork show a marked difference in price from that at order check out?
Where are my order email updates and communications going?
How do I know when ordering if a product is non-returnable?
Why did I not receive my full delivery when I was invoiced?
Can I have full oversight of how the supplier is managing my order and any back orders down to date level?
How are returns processed and charged?
Can NHS Supply Chain enable us to configure three way matching by trust preference, down to product level?
How can I track my order?
Can I configure our Goods Receipting by our trust preference, down to product level?
If the trust ordering system duplicates an order, can the NHS Supply Chain system spot it and delete the duplicate?
Why do the lead times on the NHS Supply Chain catalogue differ from those provided if I go direct?
Can NHS Supply Chain remove Minimum Order Values? If the answer is no, how can you improve our order experience so that we’re more aware of Minimum Order Thresholds?
Can I see the supplier’s inventory level?
How do you manage loan kits?
Can NHS Supply Chain cut off times and order batching be changed or removed? They cause us complications in terms of estimating lead times.

Important project updates

Improving Order Communications

Enabling customers to maintain eDirect order contact details through our website.

Batch and Serial Numbers

Current solutions to batch and serial numbers and our future development plans.

Receipting

What receipting is possible on our systems and what you can do to improve the process.

Minimum Order Values

Why do we have MOVs and what are we doing as part of the eDirect project?

eDirect FAQs

Common enquiries from our current eDirect customers

Why is the invoiced eDirect product price different from the catalogue?

Product costs often fluctuate. There have been occasions when we have been made aware that the bought costs have changed between the time our customers purchase at checkout to when they are invoiced. We have been busy implementing system changes as part of our ‘Core Technology Refresh’ in order that our customers will only ever be charged the cost at check out. See our Useful Links ? section for further information on our Core Technology Refresh programme. This issue can also be experienced by those NHS trusts who have a third party ‘Procure to Pay’ (P2P) system. These systems often take a copy of our product online catalogue and use the prices they upload. Our product catalogue is refreshed constantly, so if there is not at least a daily refresh occurring within the P2P, then prices are likely to quickly become out of sync. If you are an NHS Provider using a third party P2P, it is worth a discussion with your IT representative to explore this further. Our Customer Services team are highly knowledgeable, experienced and ready to help resolve any of your queries and concerns.

Can lead times be different when placing an order direct?

Following conversations with our suppliers, they state that lead times are not altered when a customer places a direct order. The lead times are set by product and not order route. So, they cannot be altered because the order processing, pick, pack, and ship timings remain the same regardless of the order route. For example, a typical statement for Johnson and Johnson “For DePuy Synthes, lead times remain the same (24 hours) regardless of the routing of order – providing they are received before 5 pm”.

Should you have specific examples of where you achieved a different lead time by going direct, please email the information to edirect@supplychain.nhs.uk and we will investigate with the relevant supplier.

Why does an eDirect order take longer than the lead time to arrive?

Some customers who operate through their own third party Procure to Pay (P2P) systems rely on product lead time data that their P2P systems upload from our NHS Supply Chain product catalogue. Our catalogue data is updated daily, so if your catalogue refresh is not configured for a daily update, you may see out of date lead times.

Also, the time it takes for a P2P system to process the order to NHS Supply Chain can also impact an order meeting a supplier’s agreed eDirect lead time. Your order must be received before the supplier’s order cut off time.

How do I know if an eDirect product has a Minimum Order Threshold when placing an order?

Currently, we are working on how we can improve visibility for both users of Online Ordering and customers using third party order systems. These include developing a flag to appear on our online product catalogue and catalogue updates for items subject to a supplier minimum order value. We are also looking at ways to inform the customer at the point of order.

We will share the progress of these technical updates as soon as we have further information to provide.

Can you enable a view of eDirect supplier stock inventory levels?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to deliver supplier stock inventory levels.

Our suppliers are not exclusively supplying to NHS Supply Chain and their order management systems are constantly adjusting stock inventory levels. For our systems to monitor and report on these levels, we would need to develop ‘real-time’ data exchange between our system and that of each of our suppliers. 

The change required to the supplier system would be reasonably complex from a technical perspective, and there is a risk that this would impact a supplier’s ability to supply products at the great rates we negotiate.

Additionally, if this functionality was available it would not benefit many customers who use third party systems. These customers would also need to implement a real-time data feed through their own third party procurement system.

Can NHS Supply Chain identify and capture duplicate eDirect orders?

No, identifying duplicate orders is not a requirement that NHS Supply Chain systems can meet. This is the same for most standard ordering systems.

The inbound data on each order is marked by the order system as ‘unique’ by a specific combination of factors. The ordering system would not be able to identify if it is a duplicate or a recurring order from a customer.

Most NHS Providers have internal processes to prevent erroneous ordering. On the rare occasion where this issue occurs, our Customer Services teams can help and support your team.

Why are NPC or MPC numbers are not appearing on eDirect delivery paperwork? 

All customer orders and subsequent communications use NPCs. NPC’s are unique product catalogue codes created by NHS Supply Chain, which are not generated or governed by suppliers or manufacturers. Our unique NPC codes eliminate processing issues that occur due to duplication across MPCs.

NHS Supply Chain submits orders to a supplier using the MPC. The supplier, therefore, quotes the MPC reference on delivery and invoicing paperwork. 

We have reminded our suppliers that they must include that at least one of the NPC or MPC on all paperwork.

How can I find our local reference if it is not quoted on an eDirect order?

This can be located through the use of our Online Ordering portal. If this feature is not available, please speak with the NHS Supply Chain Customer Services Team. We can facilitate a further conversation with your IT team to enable local reference fields.

What if our order references are not quoted on the eDirect order paperwork?

NHS Supply Chain can recognise and identify orders using the Providers customer PO as the local reference field. This field is searchable within the NHS Supply Chain Online Order Systems and included in the reporting suite offered by NHS Supply Chain. 

How do I know if an eDirect product is non-returnable?

The eDirect in Focus project has been investigating possible solutions to improve the visibility of Non-Returnable products.

The aim is to clearly present products in our catalogue as shown, so the messaging is clear. Where there are various examples of a Non-Returnable message in the description, we are working on bringing these into alignment.