Clinical involvement in procurement is guaranteed to realise savings | Mandie Sunderland

Nurse on ward

The NHS spends £4.5 billion per year on clinical products in the acute sector alone. All trusts are under pressure to make savings and we must work together to protect patient safety and the front line, as a priority. To have waste in the NHS during these times of great financial strain is no longer an option: every £30,000 saved equates to one Band 5 nurse. The reasons for the situation are complex, but one of the most common is a lack of true clinical involvement.

I am proud to have championed some of the work that has contributed to changing this culture in my own trust(s)*, which has generated in excess of £770,000¹  savings to date. I started this work while I was the chief nurse at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, where we had large numbers of stakeholders working on product specifications; this meant difficulty reaching consensus and often resulted in buying several different versions of the same product. 

Realising this was not in the best interests of patients, staff or the trust, we made simple but effective changes. Senior nurses were given responsibility for making decisions on the products nurses use, inviting procurement colleagues to meet with them on a quarterly basis to share ideas on how and where products could be purchased more efficiently.

Taking this to the next level, over the past 18 months I have been working closely with a dedicated team from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), NHS Supply Chain and the Clinical Procurement Specialist Network (CPSN) on an exciting new campaign that enables us to reduce clinical and consumable cost and waste, without detracting from patient care. 

You may have heard about the Small Changes, Big Differences campaign which launched to tremendous support on 24 March. I wanted to explain why this campaign is particularly close to my heart.

Having quality, safety and value at the front line is all about empowering our nurses and midwives to harness their incredible knowledge within healthcare and the nursing profession. It’s important that we use our experience to drive patient safety by standardising products which will, ultimately, reduce cost and waste. Doing so will also minimise risk by streamlining the vast array of products currently available. This will give us the confidence that all nursing professionals will know how to effectively use each piece of kit.

One of the areas we were keen to develop was a comprehensive toolkit to help nurses know that accessible support is available. The toolkit comprises handy tips, success stories, quick wins (savings opportunities) and ‘how to’ guides, which provide useful information on how to engage and implement the campaign in your area. There are also case studies from trusts and an introduction to our Traffic Light Support System. The system helps to label products in stock rooms to raise awareness of their cost before selection, driving efficiencies without creating any extra work. 

Being a member of NHS Supply Chain’s Customer Board, and chairing the Clinical Reference Board which feeds in to the National Customer Board, has meant I am able to raise awareness of the incredible work nurses do across the country. It also serves as an important vehicle to highlight some of the risks and challenges that we face. 

There is representation on the Clinical Reference Board from directors of nursing across the country and those that represent the Royal College of Nursing, Monitor and the Trust Development Authority. The board is determined to make positive changes for the NHS, and I will keep driving this agenda through the work undertaken by the Clinical Reference Board and in my own trust – effective shopping has a place in every space!

Eighty-seven per cent the nurses we surveyed in December 2014 told us they believed that patient safety could be improved if nurses had greater involvement in the purchasing process. That’s a massive number of people who know just how important nursing insight in clinical products can be. 

This campaign is your opportunity to open conversations with your clinicians and procurement teams, and my challenge to you is this: there is a significant potential savings opportunity here which would make a big difference in each and every trust – will you get involved and share your savings and successes with us?

To find out more, get involved and download resources, visit our campaign pages via the links below:

¹ Further information and breakdown of savings can be found in the Small Changes, Big Differences campaign handbook which can be downloaded from the NHS Supply Chain website

* The Traffic Light Support System was piloted while Mandie was at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trusts.
** The savings were achieved while Mandie was at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

Mandie Sunderland is the chief nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Follow the trust on Twitter @nottmhospitals

Like this post?

Share it on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Confederation

  • Access exclusive resources 
    Access member-only resources and tailor member benefits and services
  • Personalise your website
    Select topics of interest for recommended content
  • Comment and recommend
    Rate and share content with colleagues
  • Never miss a thing
    Register now to keep your finger on the pulse of the NHS Confederation

Log In