Hospitals to be ranked on spending
NHS hospitals are to be put into league tables on how well they are spending their cash after health officials identified a "profligate and scandalous waste of money" being spent on common items.
There are wide regional differences in the prices paid for such things as surgical gloves, anti-embolism stockings, slings and medical wipes, officials said.
The Department of Health announced that it will publish a "procurement atlas" after it found that some hospitals were spending "wildly different amounts" to buy exactly the same products.
The data compares spending by 244 NHS trusts on 100 of the most common products.
Hospitals will be ranked on how well they spend money on the range of products.
The atlas shows that some trusts are spending £30 on a box of 100 needles when others are spending just £4 for the same product.
Some pay 50p for a pair of surgical gloves while others shell out £1.28, the data show.
And s ome hospitals are paying £1.84 for 500 sheets of A4 paper - less than half the £4.34 paid by others.
Many hospitals could save more than £600,000 every year by getting the same deals as others on syringes, bandages and paper, officials said.
Commercial confidentiality clauses have prevented the data from being disclosed until now, but Health Minister Dan Poulter made changes to the NHS contract which has forced the data out into the open.
In the future it is hoped that the efficiency league tables will include the 500 most common hospital purchases.
" With an eye-watering £14 billion spent on hospital goods and services every year, better procurement represents a tremendous opportunity to improve efficiency and free up money for patient care," Dr Poulter wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
" Things such as gloves, disinfectant wipes and A4 paper are bought in vast quantities. Every hospital - and every manager - has a responsibility to get the best price possible and to account for their spending.
"So, today I have launched a website (which can be reached via gov.uk/dh) that begins the process of comparing the prices of more than 100 different healthcare products - the NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation.
"This will help us to end the unacceptable situation where hospitals, sometimes only a few miles apart, are paying wildly different amounts for exactly the same products.
"H ospitals will be now be ranked on how well they spend money on a range of common goods, helping them to identify where they need to do better. For example, some pay less than £4 for 100 blunt needles, while others fork out more than £30.
"This is a profligate and scandalous waste of money, and it is patients who are being short-changed. From today, we can celebrate the savviest buyers and shame the worst offenders for all to see."