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NHS suppliers must be forced to list prices online to slash £500m overspend

Kathleen Hall

The government must force NHS suppliers to list their prices on a comparison website in order to drive out £500m of overspend caused by price variation, according to research.

The study from Ernst & Young found that discrepancies in the price of the same medical supplies could be costing the NHS up to £500m.

According to the survey, some trusts are paying over twice the average price for the same supplies.

Joe Stringer, partner at Ernst & Young, said: “When price comparison sites happened in the insurance industry, some 15% was immediately taken out of the market.

“This is something we absolutely need mandation for, as suppliers are doing everything they can to push against proposals for a transparent view of pricing. If a supplier wants to do business with NHS they should be expected to make the cost of their products transparent.”

Nearly two years ago the National Audit Office and the Foundation Trust Network found significant variations in the prices paid by different NHS trusts for the same products.

Stringer said the research focused on basic medical supplies, rather than technology equipment, but added previous studies have shown NHS trusts are also paying over the odds for software licences.

Earlier this year Computer Weekly revealed that some government departments were paying up to three times more than others for ERP software licences.

The research comes amid growing calls for supplier transparency. Deputy government CIO Liam Maxwell recently praised the government’s G-Cloud framework as a model for how future frameworks should work, as the Cloud Store portal through which its services can be purchased provides a transparent pricing list.

As revealed by Computer Weekly, the NHS intends move to G-Cloud for secure email services.


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