Breaking News – NHS Shelford Group To Use Virtualstock Catalogue Management Tool

It’s been announced this morning that the Shelford Group* of 10 leading NHS Trusts will deploy Virtualstock’s cloud-based catalogue management solution. This is one of the first multi-site (but not nationally imposed) technology deals done in the NHS to our knowledge, and will certainly create interest in the wider health system.

Last year’s report from Lord Carter on efficiency in the NHS highlighted unwarranted price and product variation across acute trusts: a sample of 22 trusts exposed that they used 30,000 suppliers, 20,000 different product brands and more than 400,000 manufacturer products. There are big savings targets related to procurement and the report identified that effective catalogue management, enabling control, compliance and reduced product and price variation, was one of the key building blocks to drive improvement.

It is not the whole answer of course but this is a significant step, and if Virtualstock does become a de facto catalogue “standard” for NHS hospitals that will simplify matters considerably for the supply side too. This deal is also a triumph for our friend Rob Knott, who left the NHS and joined Virtualstock a year ago – we suspect he could see the potential in this product and in this approach generally!

We said a while back that our biggest hope for NHS procurement lay not with the “centre” but with the excellent leaders we see in quite a few Trusts now, people who are embracing technology as well as understanding key issues such as engagement with clinicians and other stakeholders. Those people aren’t just in the Shelford Group, we should say, but let’s hope all the procurement heads around the network look at initiatives like this and learn from what is working in other Trusts.

It's also big news for Virtualstock - the firm has not really been a big player in the "procurement technology" world from our perspective, having focused mainly on retail and retailer-oriented catalogue management. But perhaps we will see more of them in the B2B world now - and might this also lead to other public sector organisations taking a look at the product? MOD perhaps? Crown Commercial Service?

* Here is the full cut-out-and -list of the Shelford Group just in case you’re interested!

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Voices (7)

  1. Keith Rowley:

    Thank you to Mick for his comments and views highlighting the work we are doing.

    It is always exciting to see announcements of innovative new technologies being brought to bear in the NHS and to see that the market in this area is so competitive. Clearly there are a number of different and very capable providers bringing innovative and exciting solutions to the benefit of the NHS. With these different options available to us it reminds me that our role as procurement professionals is to seek to ensure we source technologies that are fit for purpose, meet our needs and bring value for money.

    I look forward to seeing how this among other solutions help meet the challenges and needs of the NHS (ours among them).

  2. Mick Corti:

    Any joining up of the fragmented and federated landscape is of course laudable. And in fairness to the Shelford Group, they got underway a few years ago, before the push from Lord Carter et al.
    Smarter minds than mine I’m sure will think about how the national programme, including the PPIB service that Mark references, will inter-act with local systems and operating procedures.
    In terms of national catalogues, then caution needs exercising. We have a national catalogue right now, but of course it doesnt look, feel or have the functionality we would expect from a 21st century solution. That’s not necessarily NHSSCs fault, but it is where we are. The future national catalogue (or catalogues if we consider the prospect of multiple category towers) will need to seamlessly work with local catalogues, which one would expected to include things like templated solutions for services and not just product.
    In turn, local catalogues, will need the ability to be multi-tenanted, which I would guess might be what SG are aiming for.
    As the brand new Director of PPS (the shared procurement service for 5 acutes in North London) a single, multi tenanted catalogue solution (that has a 21st century user experience) is high on my priority list.
    We will however wait just a few days to understand the outcome of the procurement my old colleagues at LPP have been working on, under steerage of Keith Rowley’s excellent team at the North of England Collaborative. They have specified and set up a contract (with input from the national e-procurement team at the DoH, as well as the regional hubs and local trust teams) for provision of a catalogue solution that will be open to all of NHS.
    Interesting times indeed.

    1. Sam Unkim:

      Zanzibar always sounded so much more exotic

  3. Mark Lainchbury:

    Congratulations to Virtualstock of course.

    But strikes me as kind of weird decision, given the recent award (of the price benchmearking service) to AdviseInc, who are now the proud possessors of ALL of the NHS’s purchasing data.
    They would almost, have to go out of their way not to develop, a central cleansed list of common products & suppliers.

    All views my own of course , blah blah

    1. Scott Pryde:

      They would Mark but it would also be immediately out of date as the medtech catalogue changes at a rate of 30% PA. the asset is therefore not the data at all, it’s not even the process or technology (all of which existed in scotland almost a decade ago)… the main point of value (complexity) in catalogue management is whoever can successfully reconcile the buy and supply side in medtech, motivate the companies to supply regular data updates and help bridge the catalogue management resource/competency gap that exists both in the companies and the NHS. If VS manage to do this then hats off to them.

      1. Mark Lainchbury:

        Hasn’t your 30% refresh rate, proved to be an inaccuracy caused by the present systems having to re-load the entire Named-Suppliers catalogue, whenever any one single item (from the supplier) changes ?

        I also fear that “regular data updates” is to often going to mean “price increases”. Are Clinical staff ready for a Health consumables market that dynamic ?

        1. David Lawson:

          I will let you know in June when we go live with full P2P. Watch the video:

          When we implemented on-line ordering 10 years ago we had to train staff how to use a computer before showing them the system. The same group now order their shopping for home on their mobile.

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