The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has welcomed a new procurement strategy to be introduced to the NHS.

Jim Bligh, head of public services reform at CBI, said that the plans will help to ensure that the health service gets the best value for money from its strained resources.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter unveiled the new strategy earlier this week (August 5th), which will see hospitals compelled to publish details of how much they spend on goods and services. This data will be collated into a new price index, allowing politicians and the public to compare different facilities.

Buyers for hospitals will also have access to a new comparison website where they can shop around to find better prices for key equipment among different suppliers.

The Department of Health will also take responsibility for purchasing some of the most expensive equipment such as MRI scanners and radiotherapy machines. By negotiating as a single large customer, it is hoped the department will be able to negotiate better deals for English hospitals.

A new ‘procurement champion’ with a background in the private sector will be appointed to the NHS, with the authority to drive more efficient procurement practices across the whole of the health service. Recruitment for the role will start immediately. The successful candidate will be expected to work with a new high-level team including ministers, businesses and NHS staff which will provide ongoing scrutiny and guidance for NHS procurement bodies.

Dr Poulter said the reforms would enable the health service to “get a grip on wasteful spending to drive real change and improved procurement practices so that more of our NHS’s resources can be spent on frontline patient care.”

CBI says that inconsistencies in procurement have led to some hospitals paying double the bills faced by others for simple items like blankets and forceps. However, the pressure on NHS resources is becoming more serious, with a £54 billion funding shortfall predicted in 2021.

“Appointing a Procurement Champion with private sector experience will help address this by injecting much-needed commercial edge, as will introducing a new website where hospitals can compare suppliers and prices,” says Mr Bligh.

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