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Small changes, big differences

The value of collaboration

Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

Andrew Varley, Clinical Procurement Specialist at Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, organised a clinical savings swap shop, saving local trusts thousands of pounds in the process.

I decided to set up a clinical savings swap shop after seeing the value of collaboration at meetings for the National Network of Clinical Procurement Specialists. No such initiative existed here in the South West, and 12 months after establishing the group, we now have 10 Trusts involved.

I coordinate the meetings, with the help of colleagues Nick Hodgson and Hilary Cox from Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. The meetings take place every three months or so are an opportunity to see what other Trusts are doing; products they have introduced and ideas they have for the future. We talk over coffee and it’s a very relaxed environment, which gives everyone the confidence to share openly and make suggestions.

The benefits

Our own Trust has benefited hugely from the swap shop. After a member presented a new type of IV dressing to the group, originally introduced by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, we took it on ourselves and have saved over £20,000. Most of the region has also adopted this new product. Similarly, Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust recently made a combined saving of 205,000 simply by changing its brand of sutures and surgery gloves – which is something we have looked to replicate here.

Overall in the last 3 meetings the group has swapped savings ideas amounting to over £850,000 that might otherwise have stayed within their own organisations.

Clinical involvement

The swap shop isn’t just a space for procurement professionals – we also encourage clinical staff to attend. The hardest part of procurement is engagement, so it is important to get staff involved in the process as early as possible.

When introducing a new product, we always consult with clinical areas first, carry out bench-top exercises and gather feedback and comments. We have also held supplier days and performed full and rigorous evaluations in high-usage areas over longer periods of time – to make sure it’s right for everyone.

Procurement is a skill

I firmly believe that procurement is a skill and isn’t just about buying at the lowest price. My experience of working in procurement, which includes time as procurement lead for 15 operating theatres, has taught me that the role is as much about opening up channels of communication as it is about spotting a saving. We have a team of 14 people who have all worked very hard to build our credibility up across the organisation.

It’s important to note that every conversation in the swap shop is in the interests of patient safety. Putting our patients first is one of the five key values within our Trust, and knowing we have made the lives of patients, and staff, easier by introducing a better product is more satisfying than any financial saving.

Opportunities to learn

There are always opportunities to learn and new ways of doing things. We recently performed a stock amnesty after hearing about successful event at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. This allowed us to redistribute £14,000 worth of unused stock back into the hospital.

Looking ahead, the swap shop is evolving and we are hoping to expand to other parts of the South West, including Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. The recent Carter Review has put procurement in the spotlight so it’s quickly become a priority for everybody. To anyone thinking of setting up their own savings swap shop, I would say go for it - there are huge benefits to be gained from working together.