NHS Procurement Atlas provokes disappointment among directors


The NHS’ Procurement Atlas – a tool designed to improve purchasing – has been met with disappointment over the way the Department of Health (DH) presented data.

The NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation highlighted inconsistent spending in prices paid by trusts for 100 items ranging from surgical gloves to syringes.

The Health Care Supply Association’s (HCSA’s) chairman Simon Walsh, who is also head of procurement and e-commerce at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the organisation was “surprised and disappointed not to receive formal advance notification of the Atlas issue”.

“It was frustrating as even limited input from HCSA could have avoided last week’s negative feelings and in some parts genuine anger,” he told Supply Management. “The Atlas itself is a useful and innovative tool that offers a great opportunity to improve information sharing and transparency.

“Unfortunately, the initial list of items are all from the NHS Supply Chain catalogue and in reality show the range of items/prices/brand available from trusts to select from. The analysis, when correct, primarily illuminates the efficacy of the selection decision rather than commercial failure.”

Walsh added the HCSA has called for an NHS reference group to be set up “to work with the DH to improve future Atlas information and overcome last week’s challenges”.

John Watts, director of procurement and e-commerce at Barts Health NHS Trust, also said the data published was not “sense-checked”.

“I think most procurement professionals support price transparency and measurement across the NHS but before it goes into the public domain make sure its content is right,” he said.

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