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The Department of Health launched its eProcurement Strategy back in May. The new strategy complements the recent Procurement Strategy, and is designed to support trusts in improving NHS procurement activity and delivering cost efficiencies through the increased use of technology.
NHS Supply Chain welcomes the strategy and the efficiencies that eProcurement solutions can bring. Whilst all NHS providers use eProcurement solutions, none have fully implemented solutions that underpin all procurement activity.
“We’re delighted that the Department of Health has taken this step to improve access to eProcurement through the launch of this new strategy,” says David Rabjohns, eCommerce Enterprise Architect at NHS Supply Chain. “As a business, we greatly support the introduction of a new ‘common standards’ based approach to data processing for the NHS.”
The eProcurement strategy will establish the global GS1 coding and PEPPOL messaging standards throughout the healthcare sector and its supporting supply chains. The adoption of GS1 standards will provide the master data required and is the foundation for improving all aspects of procurement.
“There will be better financial visibility and understanding from having the core data. It’s difficult to get at the data for price comparison at the moment because it’s fragmented and people can call one product 10 different names, depending on who’s coding it,” says David.
“This strategy will allow transparency throughout the NHS procurement process, simplifying the supply chain, driving cost efficiencies, increasing accuracy and allowing greater compliance,“ continues David. “It will also enable a more unified system of procurement across the NHS, enabling product comparison, aggregation and standardisation across trusts.”
NHS Supply Chain has already begun its journey on this standards-based approach to data through achieving GS1 accreditation, collecting and displaying GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to improve accessibility to product information, and increasing the use of e-solutions, such as electronic invoicing, to simplify the procurement process.
Their eDC inventory management system was referenced in the strategy as meeting the majority of needs of NHS acute providers. “We welcome reference made in the eProcurement Strategy to eDC and eDC Gold – systems which are already delivering benefits to a large number of NHS trusts,” continues David.
What is eDC and eDC Gold?
Electronic Demand Capture (eDC) is a system already used by the majority of NHS Trusts. It enables Trusts to manage their levels of low value/high volume stock and non-stock products using a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) to scan product bar codes. The system can be used to monitor and generate order information for all ward stocks, not just those products sourced via NHS Supply Chain. It also provides management information and informs future inventory levels based on historical demand profile.
With an estimated £1 billion of the national NHS budget attributed to consigned and high value stock there will inevitably be complexities in managing it. NHS Supply Chain recognised that by implementing systems and processes that make managing this cost area more effective, it could provide trusts with numerous benefits to the complex and widespread challenges that they have routinely been facing.
eDC Gold introduces additional inventory management functionality enabling trusts to manage, track and report on high value/low volume product categories such as Orthoapedics, which require an enhanced level of inventory management; whilst still enjoying all of the benefits of the existing eDC systems.
eDC Gold not only tracks stock levels but stock movements as well, telling the trust where stock is, where it has been used (i.e. theatre location, consultant, patient), which products are owned, which are consignment. This enables consumption by location to be better understood which can be used to drive benefits and cost down initiatives with Trusts and inform their procurement strategies.
Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust recognised the need to place governance and control at the heart of its procurement processes. The key factor in achieving this was attaining the highest levels of data transparency across all non-pay spend. The trust agreed to work with NHS Supply Chain to develop the eDC Gold managed inventory system.
The results were impressive. Tracking stock movements and not only stock levels led to a lower incidence of over ordering, easier management of stock, reduced availability and downtime issues, free time for clinicians and improved understanding of product consumption helping to inform strategic procurement decisions. “Before eDC Gold we did not know what consignment stock we actually had,” said Clive Mosby, Head of Procurement, Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust found that data transparency across orthopaedic procurement improved through the use of eDC Gold, reducing clinical time spent on stock management by 74 per cent and product recall processes by 92 per cent,” says David Rabjohns.
“Time freed up for senior staff can be spent on training and support for junior members of the team and means that we have more time available to be in theatre,” says Claire Chesters, Clinical Lead at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“There is little doubt that eProcurement is the way forward for the NHS in terms of delivering better value for money in procurement,” says David, but there is widespread agreement in the healthcare sector that implementing the strategy will take time and need a concerted effort across the NHS landscape, and the NHS supplier base, to achieve this ambition. As Dr Dan Poulter said in his forward to the strategy: “There have been many previous initiatives to realise procurement efficiencies but this time we mean business and are determined to deliver efficiencies to free up more money for frontline care.”