NHS GS1 “Demonstrators” Announced – Go West, Young Buyer!

The NHS has been going through a fairly lengthy process of selecting six hospitals (Trusts) as “demonstrator” sites for implementation of the GS1 bar-coding product categorisation, which is seen as an essential step to good stock and procurement management in hospitals. The sites will give insight into the challenges and opportunities of adopting GS1 standards in a live healthcare environment, and a validation of the real costs and benefits to Trusts. That's the idea, anyway.

A long-list of 12 was chosen a few months back, and last week, after millions of pounds has been spent on consultancy support by the 12, the final list of six was announced (but only semi-publicly; Twitter reported a Jeremy Hunt speech but we can’t find an official press release or memo). Anyway, it is an odd list - this is the final six.







Now maybe these are Trusts that have put in an excellent proposal (several of them using the same consulting firm who obviously did a great job of getting their clients selected) and indeed, these might be the “best” six projects. The problem comes though when we think about the word “demonstrator”. Surely one key point is to get other Trusts to go and actually see what the six are up to?

So, what are the three largest population centres in England? Yes, that’s right – London, the West Midlands (centred on Birmingham), and the North-West mega-conurbation of Manchester, Liverpool, and surrounds. But none of the six are in these three key areas.

We’ve got nothing against Plymouth and Leeds – both are major Trusts with a good reputation for procurement and supply chain activities already. We know less about Cornwall, Salisbury, Derby or North Tees. But the regional spread is weird, quite frankly – three in the less populated south-west of the country!

I mean, no disrespect to Cornwall, but no-one is going to trek down to Truro for goodness sake, travelling past Plymouth and Salisbury probably as they do so. And London staff have Salisbury as their nearest, but it is not exactly on the doorstep or indeed a particularly similar organisation to the big London Trusts.

So well done to the six, but might this be a bit of a missed opportunity, as it so often seems to be when we look at NHS national procurement initiatives?  But we are very open to comments and would welcome any different and informed views; we aren’t that close to this programe so perhaps we are missing something here?

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Voices (8)

  1. Nicola Hall:

    I totally agree. we have been working with Portsmouth and a number of other trusts for sometime , those trust have significant and reported savings and returns on investment that speak for them selves. This has been achieved with perpetual re-order management. The forecasts to move to demand led planning linking purchases to panned activity for elective are even more significant. There are trusts Portsmouth as a prime example that have been setting the pace and acting as demonstrators sites for some time.

  2. Mark Lainchbury:

    @ LM – You are not wrong, but it’s a start & we have to start !!

    I still think the awarded Trusts are the best choices, with staff who are committed to dragging NHS (paper based) practices forward into the 1980’s.

    1. LM:

      I think that the final six represent some of the better trusts (in the top 50) and there is no doubt that Leeds would have been in any top six, but there are so many notable absentees. Not a single London trust was shortlisted (or even encouraged I hear) to enter this ridiculous bidding process. And not a single trust in the North West. Not a single Shelford Group trust either. And if you were to draw up a second list featuring the top procurement directors/leaders, only Chris Slater’s name (at Leeds) would come up twice.

      Leeds will need to rent a conference centre because it will be the only hospital that anyone will want to visit (and that isn’t because of convenience).

      Everyone admires the progress made at Royal Derby by their DoF but we all know which company runs the system, so most procurement leaders will adopt the majority of lean principles especially wasting any petrol to go there. The absence of Portsmouth on the final six is remarkable and this only demonstrates the level of ineptitude at the centre. (The scepticism in me triggered the notion that perhaps the progress made at Portsmouth was so advanced that the consultants assisting with their business case decided to put all their efforts into the three that eventually won.)

      The DoH should have ‘selected’ 12 exceptional trusts and given them £1m each (more than enough) to establish their status as international exemplars in demonstrating track and trace. This is pathetic and a waste of taxpayers monies.

      While the rest of the leadership teams in the centre are trying to eradicate (or at least reduce) competition, PICD is demonstrating that they are completely divorced from reality by forcing a competition between providers.

      And guess what I heard this week? PICD brought all the winners and losers together into a room and said “let’s work together”. The losers (without the £2m in funds) must be feeling completely bewildered, and very disillusioned.

  3. Dave Coley:

    My point was that we dont need to wait for the research from the beauty parade, building a BC and getting funding is our job in our organisations.

  4. LM:

    Has the DoH done enough to raise the profile of GS1 to trust boards? Out of 250 trusts, only 50 (or so) put forward adoption plans for the (extended) deadline. Of the 50, about 30 (or so) expressed an interest in being given a chance to ‘compete’ against their peers to become one of just six trusts to win an equal share of £2m. The average ‘bid’ from each of the 12 finalists was about £1.94m, because the DoH told everyone, including the entire consultancy market, that the budget per trust would be £2m. Shock/horror that each bid was so close to the budget.

    And this, from the Procurement, Investment and Commercial Division of the DoH. The PAC would relish tearing holes in this process to find the vfm, especially the initial £1m spent on three consultancy firms who wrote the 12 business cases (‘bids’) to be evaluated by interims in secrecy in Skipton House. (The evaluation criteria was vague, at best.)

    The big question Peter is what 130 acute trusts (where most of the spend is) would have done with £12m over 2 years had they been asked. How about:
    – Sourcing tools for everyone for 2 years? Or
    – Spend analytics for everyone for 2 years? Or
    – Inventory management for everyone for 2 years? Or
    – Catalogue management for everyone (yes, you’ve guessed it, for 2 years)? Or
    – Relet the NHS Supply Chain contract (within 2 years so it didn’t need extending) – many would have voted for that one! Or
    – Any other ideas welcome…

    GS1 was mandated in the NHS Contract so a few hard deadlines supplemented with a few well aimed threats (or incentives) would have been sufficient. The vast majority of measurable savings will be achieved by the adoption of good supply chain management and lean principles.

    The locations of the final shortlisted trusts simply tell us that all’s not well in Denmark (something stinks) and some of us will be keeping a watchful eye on any consultancy which subsequently wins a contract to help one of these trusts deliver the promises outlined in their submission. I have already started to make a few enquiries and whatever I find out I will post on this blog for all to see.

  5. Dave Coley:

    My Business Case (purely for a stock system) at Heart of England was based on £100m pa spend of in scope product and covered hard cash and soft non-cash up to £2m over 2 years. I think there are some decent case studies already and we intend to add to the empirical evidence based and publish a paper ( probably via HFMA) to help FD’s get the inputs and outputs.
    I’m certain Alan Hoskins and Andy McMinn have numbers they can share so Trusts can start planning OBC’s etc.

  6. Nicola Hall:

    The GS1 program is an excellent program. Its about getting the basics in place for track and trace that will be the basis of gaining efficiencies. The NHS is way behind the commercial sector in utilising solutions and data standards to gain efficiency of the bottom line, especially in the back office arena. We wish all the demonstrator sites well in their projects of course. However, the choices do seem odd and especially the geographical spread. Perhaps the DOH could publish their selection criteria?
    I cant help feeling that if the funding had been used for a GS1 consultant in every trust we may be able to see the program gain some real pace.

  7. Mark Lainchbury:

    Maybe Pathfinder or Vanguard would been a better word.

    It’s not a seed drill & we aren’t going to troop down there every week to pat Jethro on the back, and compliment him on his nice straight rows. 🙂

    These Trusts are going to have £12million thrown at them to see if Bar-Coding can deliver a decent ROI in the real world NHS.

    The answer is of course yes, but I guess the NHS is still unsure of the question.

    Its a once in a lifetime opportunity and the present piecemeal implementations (bar-codes on Medical Records folders, Equipment I.D. Plates, Patient wrist bands, Theatre procedure trays, Room Numbers, Deliveries & Consumables usage) need to be linked together.

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