Hospital Procurement League Tables – Alan and Kirsty Give Their Views!

At the HCSA health procurement conference last week, we opened my session with a spoof "radio show", with our pundits discussing the recent procurement league tables, which compared prices paid by hospital trusts for a number of items.

I've had literally hundreds - well, two or three - requests to make it more widely available, so here it is. The role of "Kirsty Barker" is played by my daughter Ginny; science communicator, author, radio and TV presenter and voice artist extraordinaire. Available for voice overs, science shows and the like for very reasonable rates...


In terms of the league tables, while we can all see the benefits of comparing prices, there are several issues here. There is a risk that tables encourage secrecy rather than collaboration – benchmarking is really what we want to see. The biggest problem with this table may be data quality. The placings and the estimated potential savings are based on pricing for relatively few items, so if there are any errors either in the specific Trust data or in the “lowest price” benchmarks used for estimating potential savings, then this will be magnified.

There is also the issue of “gaming” the table. For example, you score points towards your position by simply logging into the prices database. So, what do you think is going to happen? I’m sure you can work it out!

Interestingly, I was approached after my session by the procurement head for a large Trust that has not come out well in the table. He claims that the data is indeed misleading – “when we contacted the Trust that supposedly has the lowest price for an item, they told us that the data was wrong and that wasn’t the price they were paying”.

We’d love to verify that – as I discussed with that individual, it might have been better for the NHS to spend more time checking data before going public. Trusts could have had the chance to look at the tables and correct any errors, but we’re into politics here, with Ministers wanting to persuade the public that there really is enough money in the NHS, if only it were spent better!

However, there was good news in discovering that Scott Pryde has joined NHSI to work in the data area. He did great work with the NHS when he worked for BravoSolution, looking at using data to drive better health outcomes – so Scott has as good a chance as anyone of making sense of these issues.


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Voices (2)

  1. Thanks but No Thanks:

    Wow Prof: I disagree with so much of your comment.

    “Trusts had many months to verify the figures.” True but the League metrics are weighted away from PPIB data towards Financial AP data.

    “To be fair to nhsi they engaged a lot through the National Procurement Forum.”
    No they really didn’t, a couple of powerpoints hawked around the shelford group is hardly engagement

    “What gets measured gets done” So nothing was done between 2010>2017?
    except obviously the 100,000’s of clinical procedures using consumables delivered in a timely fashion from millions of transactions.

    “Hence the FOM is allowed to happen” Allowed to happen !!!. It’s a loveless bastard child foisted on the NHS by a Department of Health procurement policy team made up of hacks and management consultants to fill the void left by PASA’s closure

    What “Sound Theory” ? FoM Towers.. Even Colin Cram can’t bring himself to defend their award to the present incumbents & Elon Musk couldn’t concieve buidling a “framework” factory that size.

    and if NHI had additionally paid AdviseInc a fraction of the £20m they paid EY to set up the “intelligent client coordinator” to operate a rinse-&-return service for Trusts monthly data submissions we would, by now, be well on the way to having reliable information to work with.

    and let’s not saunter off towards Pharmacy until we have accomplished a reasonable job in our own back yard.

  2. NHS proc prof:

    Trusts had many months to verify the figures. Problem is only a handful did, us being one of them. To be fair to nhsi they engaged a lot through the National Procurement Forum. “What gets measured gets done”. We’ve tried changing behaviours and nothing ever changes. Hence the FOM is allowed to happen as there’s a massive vacuum in local capability and resource. Hcsa is getting there but it might be too late to change / influence the national direction. Will anything change – probably not. Sound theory, but the complexity at a local level means it’s going to take years – if at all. However with tools like ppib at least price is now know so the FOM and others have nowhere to hide in providing the best / market appropriate prices in the NHS. Yes the data isn’t perfect but hey it’s our data feeding the tool so we all need to improve. Need to bring the same level of transparency to other markets now in the nhs. Pharmacy being the obvious next place to go!

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