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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, over 600 customers transact with us regularly through eDirect. Our service strives to provide efficient and timely 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.

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.
  • Improving the content of supplier delivery paperwork.
  • Optimising NHS Supply Chain processes, to maximise the benefit of new systems.
  • Continue to monitor new issues and additional root causes.
  • Working with our suppliers to improve service levels and enhance total service offering.
  • Working with our customers to ensure catalogue alignment.
  • Improving our communication channels.

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.

Important project updates

Improving order communications

You told us…

Order communications such as order receipts, management of minimum order thresholds, delivery estimates, and order cancellations are not always sent to the person who placed the order.

Customer Tracking Email on Computer Screen

The solution

To improve eDirect order contacts so that our customers stay up to date on their orders, we introduced new contact system functionality in September 2021.

This new functionality enables customers who use 3rd party order systems to maintain order contact details through the NHS Supply Chain Online website.

How will this work?

When the new functionality was released, we assigned a User contact to ensure a seamless transition. However, after the release, Trust Administrator access will be required to maintain customer contact details. Therefore you may choose to become a Trust Administrator on behalf of your trust’s NHS Supply Chain account.

Important note:

  • For our customers who order through our eCommerce platforms (Online Ordering and eDC) we will continue to use the requisitioner details as the order contact to inform eDirect and Blue Diamond order notifications. The contact will be the same as the Requisitioner. This is to avoid any signifcant change to the eCommerce platforms.
  • The only exception to the above is favourites, standing orders, or orders that are split due to variances in lead time or supplier. For these, any order amends will be communicated to the Appointed Requisition Point contact.
  • For all other customers we will use the Appointed Requisition Point user contact.

Apply to be a Trust Administrator

If you would like to become a Trust Administrator on behalf of your trust’s NHS Supply Chain account, you will need to apply via our Trust Administrator Account Online Application Form.

Please make sure you have read and understood the information on this page before completing the form.

Once you have submitted your application, we will review your request to be appointed as a Trust Administrator on behalf of your trust. We will use the information to verify your identity and obtain consent for you to be appointed as a Trust Administrator from within your trust. If that verification process is satisfactory, we will confirm your appointment to this role.

If you are already a Trust Administrator you do not need to reapply.

What is a Trust Administrator?

A Trust Administrator manages and assumes ultimate responsibility for setting up, authorising and facilitating end users who order products through us on behalf of their trust.

This includes:

  • Selecting the correct individuals (active staff)
  • Authorising appropriate level of systemic permissions for access to our Online Catalogue and Ordering System, Online Reports and our application for eDC terminal users.

Specific role responsibilities:

  • To act as the main point of contact for communication of IT issues and initiatives received, which should be cascaded to individuals with User Maintenance roles and in turn to end users.
  • Are responsible for proactively updating us of any Trust Administrators (including themselves) who are leaving and who need their role/status deleting or amending.
  • Are required to maintain their own internal register of system users for their organisation.
  • Are responsible for proactively deleting/ amending end user accounts within their institution (excepting users who themselves hold the Trust Administrator role).
  • Have ultimate control of masking products within their organisation.
  • To act in accordance with the internal legal, compliance and financial policies governing your trust.


You told us…

I want to be able to receipt certain goods before I approve the payment of an eDirect order. 

A man checking orders and receipt paperwork at a desk

What can our systems do?

NHS Supply Chain, and our ordering applications, operate on a business to customer model. This is where all orders are presumed delivery and positively receipted (100% Goods Received Note / GRN). There is therefore no receipting functionality built into the applications.

The exception to this is our eDC Gold inventory management system. This application has a receipting function used to adjust stock levels and improve stock management for clinical products. See our Useful Links section to learn what our eDC Gold system can do for you.

We understand that our customers have diverse needs in relation to their financial handling of procurement and ordering. We can now provide a hybrid invoicing model of both consolidated and detailed invoicing to our customers. For customers requiring this we will agree and set up specific detailed invoice requisition points at district level. See our Downloads ▼ section to read more about hybrid invoicing in our customer guide.

Specific Oracle-based 3rd party systems were developed to replicate the NHS Supply Chain business to customer model. These systems include Shared Business Services (SBS), North East Patches (NEP), and Patech. These systems positively receipt all orders following transmission due to the .cXML order transmission type. This differs from direct to supplier ordering where PDF orders are not sent electronically via the .cXML format, and therefore remain open for receipting.

Unfortunately, this is not an issue NHS Supply Chain alone can resolve:

  • These systems have been procured and are managed by our customers own Finance and IT teams.
  • This is how our P2P systems are built to operate.

We can confirm that our systems are operating as designed. We will continue to review the service and identify which technical, process or business transactional model developments we can make in the future.

What can you do?

NHS Supply Chain applications:

  1. Implement a robust process for checking received deliveries and report any errors to NHS Supply Chain for rectification. This should be in place as a matter of best practice for NHS Supply Chain orders generated by online ordering or eDC.
  2. Use an internal 3rd party P2P system to order via NHS Supply Chain which will provide receipting functionality. Please note, this is unless it is an Oracle-based application such as EROS, Powergate, Cedar eFinancials, etc.

3rd Party Oracle systems:

  1. Request a development from your contracted system provider to enable configurable receipting based on the product, category, flag, etc. This is different to the order transmission type which currently dictates logic in Oracle.
  2. Enable receipting for all orders and transmission types in your systems. This will result in all orders from NHS Supply Chain requiring receipting and all payments being held until completed.
  3. Set up a secondary account (aka district) with NHS Supply Chain specifically for SSDP (Specialised Services Devices programme (formerly known as the High-Cost Tariff-Excluded Devices programme) orders. This allows the primary account to remain positively receipted for the bulk volume orders and the secondary account to be set for receipting NHS Supply Chain orders.

What are other NHS providers doing?

NHS providers utilise their internal 3rd party P2P systems to enable recipeing and a two-way match between order and receipt.

NHS providers using either Oracle based P2P systems or NHS Supply Chain systems, ensure they have a diligent checking in place to confirm receipt before payment on invoicing.

A small number of NHS providers have opted to separate SSDP device order into a second NHS Supply Chain account (district). This enables them to configure orders to receipt and orders, not to receipt at the account (district) level. This deployment has varying levels of success.

Batch and serial numbers

You told us…

That you are unable to transmit the required eDirect batch or serial numbers to a supplier electronically at the point of order through our eDirect system.

Product label - instruction of lot number, manufacturing date, and expiry date

Why are batch and serial numbers missing?

The issue mainly occurs when an NHS trust orders through its internal third party purchase to pay (P2P) systems. There are two root cause issues:

  1. The inability to enter a free text note at either order or line level on the physical User Interface (UI) when placing an order through a third party P2P system.
  2. The inability for any successfully entered free text data to be transferred to and received by NHS Supply Chain within the order message. This occurs because:
    • The third party P2P system is not configured to extract and send the free text data to NHS Supply Chain in the outbound order message.
    • An Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) sends the order electronically in a legacy File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The NHS Supply Chain system cannot accept the additional free text fields.

Solutions that you can implement

We have delivered a series of solutions to enable the transmission of eDirect batch and serial numbers at the point of order. The below developments provide the ability to input, receive and transmit data. Also, enabling the systems to record and report the data into NHS Supply Chain invoices, reporting suite and the Supplier Portal.

If affected, we encourage NHS trusts to consider implementing one of the recommended solutions below.

NHS Supply Chain Online Ordering application

We developed our Online Ordering application to enter and transmit batch or serial data across three free text fields:

  1. Local reference:
    • Accepts 40 characters but is limited to 17 reportable characters on our TR reports.
  2. Order level field:
    • Accepts and transmits 160 characters per order.
    • Transmits the notes field to all suppliers within the order.
  3. Line level fields:
    • Accepts and transmits 240 characters per order line.
    • Transmits the line note only to the supplier the order line refers to.

Use the eDC Gold inventory management system

Our eDC Gold inventory management application is available to NHS trusts free of charge and has the functionality to better manage consignment stock. See our Useful Links section for further information on eDC and eDC Gold.

The application captures batch and serial information upon scanning the product barcode. Where there are multiple issues of the same product the orders are collated by the middleware transaction process. This then exceeds the character limits and deletes all the information transmitted to the Supplier Portal. There will be occasions where there are not multiple issues and therefore the character length is not exceeded, and this information will be displayed within the Supplier Portal.

We are looking at how we can resolve the collation issue as part of the eDirect in Focus project.

Third party P2P orders transmitted via PEPPOL

PEPPOL 4-corner flow diagram

PEPPOL is an acronym for Pan European Public Procurement Online, a .cXML order messaging methodology that operates on a 4-corner model. PEPPOL is an EDI protocol co-funded by the European Commission and 18 government agencies. Its aim is to simplify the P2P process between government bodies and suppliers. Most importantly, it offers a standardised connection for electronic ordering, invoicing, credit notes and advanced shipment notes.

NHS trusts and suppliers integrate and interact with PEPPOL access points. Following this, the PEPPOL access points transmit the messages to each other. NHS Supply Chain is PEPPOL compliant and uses the 4-corner model. The PEPPOL order message methodology can accept free text order fields at order or line level which can contain eDirect batch or serial data.

Some NHS trusts and third party system providers have sought to implement .cXML ordering direct with NHS Supply Chain and not through PEPPOL access points. Please note that this is an interim solution until a trust is PEPPOL compliant. Whilst the order messaging is similar to PEPPOL, not using the 4-corner model means that it is not PEPPOL compliant.

PEPPOL was a key part of the Department of Health and Social Care eProcurement Strategy published 2014, which states in Appendix A that PEPPOL was the messaging format to be adopted by the NHS.

Remove vendor managed consignment stock

If an NHS trust does not use consignment stock, then the supplier dictated requirement for provision of batch or serial data at point of order is removed.

However, this is not a suitable solution for all SSDP (Specialised Services Devices programme (formerly known as the High-Cost Tariff-Excluded Devices programme) categories nor all NHS trusts:

  • Vendor managed consignment offers benefits in certain category areas.
  • Not all NHS trusts have the funds to purchase the vendor consigned stock.
  • Not all NHS trusts have inventory management systems or robust inventory management processes to mitigate the risk of loss, damage and expiry.

What are other NHS trusts doing?

Becoming PEPPOL compliant. This is the advisable solution and if you are wanting to become PEPPOL complaint the Cegedim (previously known as NetEDI) team can assist you. They are the NHS Supply Chain’s PEPPOL Access Point and EDI Managed Service Provider:

Cegedim e-business

0800 319 6134

NHS trusts that have migrated to NHS Supply Chain transactional model and have negotiated and developed their selected third party P2P systems accordingly. We are happy to work with you and help facilitate these cross business discussions. Please contact us for assistance:

Client Services Helpdesk

0800 086 8670

Minimum order values

You told us…

That eDirect Minimum Order Values (MOVs) can often pose a problem with eDirect orders as you do not receive a notification when the order has not met the threshold. Without receiving a notification part or all your order may be cancelled without you knowing at the point of order.

Why do we have eDirect Minimum Order Values?

Some suppliers have a Minimum Order Value in place. NHS Supply Chain agrees to these as they benefit customers with lower total costs by providing efficiencies of scale. For example, with MOV’s in place this reduces delivery costs.

Current MOV process

Minimum Order Value Process

As you have told us, the problem is that customers are not notified at the point of placing an order if they have met the minimum order threshold. To meet the threshold is to have met or exceeded the suppliers’ minimum order value.

Also, the online ordering account or primary contact point may not be the same person who is placing the order.

The primary contact point is communicated to where customers use a third party ordering system and are not using our Online Ordering system in parallel. For example, a Procure to Pay or Source to Pay system.

What we are doing

We are continuously working with our suppliers to reduce the minimum order values. Since the start of the eDirect project, suppliers that require a minimum order threshold have reduced by 30%. Additionally, a number of other suppliers have also reduced their threshold values.

For some suppliers, it is not financially viable for them to process very low value orders without an increase in operational cost. This cost would then be passed on to our customers. As such, it is likely that minimum order values will always have a place when ordering.

Minimum Order Value thresholds

See our Downloads ▼ section for a list of all suppliers who currently state a minimum order value. All orders will need to meet or exceed the stated amount.

eDirect back order line amendment (part shipment)

April 2024

Back-order line amendment or part shipment occurs if a supplier is unable to fulfil an order within the standard lead time or cannot supply the full requested product quantity. Our current Supplier Portal does not have functionality for these part shipments and although medium term system replacement is planned, we need to improve part shipment capability in the short term.    

All hospital deliveries this way sign on building wall

Project background

We work with our suppliers to ensure agreed service levels and operating procedures are adhered to yet some of our suppliers have, over time, adopted numerous work arounds for back-orders to meet your demands and expectations. Unfortunately, there is no standard approach to these work arounds, so there are many ways in which suppliers will service, manage, and invoice a part-shipped order.  We acknowledge that the lack of a consistent approach is proving increasingly difficult for you to manage and to improve this we will introduce a manually managed back order line amendment service for our customers during financial year 2024-2025.

Project goals

  • We want to make it easy to engage and work with us, so we are updating our ways of working to accommodate a back order management process.
  • We want you to be able to manage your materials and inventory effectively, so we’ll provide you with clear and timely information on the status of your order.
  • We want to support your ability to manage patient care and organisational demands, so we’ll provide you with reliable information when there is a delay, along with realistic estimates of when the order can be expected.
  • We want to reduce your current administrative overheads and provide you with the opportunity to make choices around your orders. So, we’ll process back orders on your behalf against the same NHS Provider purchase order / Local reference number.
  • We want to help suppliers keep their prices low and better plan for future demand, so we’ll simplify and standardise the back order management process for our suppliers
  • We want to reduce the burden of accruals and concerns around Specialised Services Devices Programme SSDP (formally known as HCTED) reimbursement, so we’ll enable suppliers to invoice shipped goods against a completed purchase order, raising a new order for the balance.

How will this work?

  • The solution will cover our eDirect order route only. 
  • Orders will be transferred to our end suppliers using our current referencing standards
  • If an order line cannot be fulfilled due to stock shortage, the supplier can:
    • Reschedule an entire line when stock on back order is scheduled to arrive, using a new order.
    • Release what stock is available, complete the order and reschedule a subsequent date when remaining stock is scheduled to arrive on a new order.
    • Be able to invoice for goods dispatched.
    • Send communications when products are on back order.
    • Retain all the lines on your original purchase order – we will process the back order on your behalf meaning you’ll retain your place on the ‘first come / first served’ list.


The manual service is already operating successfully with 10 suppliers but roll out to all 963 eDirect suppliers will take time as many of our suppliers’ business processes may be impacted in some way as we ‘design out’ the old ways of working.

The project is currently designing the solution in detail, working through the interdependencies of all our internal systems and processes that will need to change, prioritising suppliers and recruiting resources.

When this is complete, we’ll be able to more accurately forecast how and when the solution will be available, but we are driving hard for Q1/Q2 2024 timescales.

Further details will follow as we work through the fastest route to fully enable this service and achieve the benefits for you as our valued customers.

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 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?

We have added a new link in the online catalogue menu to enable signed in customers placing orders to see eDirect supplier minimum order values (MOV) information.

Currently, we are working on how we can improve visibility for both users of Online Ordering and customers using third party order systems. 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.

See our Useful Links section for more details in our news article ‘Improvements to Your Online Catalogue and Ordering Experience’.

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.

Why does NHS Supply Chain not receive serial / batch numbers even though I add them to my order?

Depending on the system used by your trust, it may not align fully with ourselves and as such order and line notes are not received and subsequently passed on to suppliers. Please speak to your local IT team to establish whether there are any changes they can make in co-ordination with our IT provider to facilitate receipt of this additional information.

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.

How can I check when my eDirect delivery is due?

You can check your order under Latest Orders within the My Orders section of our online ordering portal. Latest Orders lists all your recent orders and will reference the expected delivery quantity and delivery date.

How will I be able to identify a back order?

Re-keyed back orders will always contain the original reference order / local reference number in the local reference field but will be suffixed with ‘B/O’.

How can I contact NHS Supply Chain Customer Services?

Customer Service

Downloads ▼

  • eDirect Minimum Order Values

    A pdf listing our eDirect suppliers minimum order values.
    Login to view the downloads
  • Customer Guide

    An overview of our services, including invoicing.