NHS trust looks to e-procurement to bring about major financial savings

The Walton Centre, the UK's only neuroscience NHS trust, expects to see significant savings from implementing an e-procurement...

The Walton Centre, the UK's only neuroscience NHS trust, expects to see significant savings from implementing an e-procurement system, which could set an example for the whole NHS.

Paul Kingan, financial manager at the trust, said he expected savings both in terms of time and creating better information on supplier spend.

This will allow the trust to analyse contracts with suppliers and increase its bargaining power, he added.

The trust has an annual procurement budget of about £12m for goods and services.

Work on the system, which is being developed with US supplier Lawson Software, began in August, and the trust's radiology department and intensive therapy unit are expected to go live in March 2003.

Walton Centre officials expect to roll out the system to the trust's 21 other departments soon after.

The e-procurement strategy is designed to replace a manual procurement system.

Based in Liverpool, the Walton Centre is widely acknowledged as a European leader in neurology and neurosurgery. The centre has a staff of 500 and houses five operating theatres and eight wards, which can support 7,000 in-patients and 20,000 outpatients each year.

Development of e-procurement systems is key to government plans to overhaul NHS IT.

The health service spends £11bn a year on goods and services.
Kingan said the Walton system could serve as a model for other trusts.

"It comes down to how comprehensive our solution is - users will be able to have a standard screen, but behind that are some complex technologies," he said. These include electronic data interchange, extensible markup language, auto-fax and Internet-based marketplaces.

Building an e-procurement system
  • Know your current supplier base - do a lot of groundwork beforehand

  • Make sure that your business processes have been documented and defined properly before you do the implementation

  • To ensure that you have a smooth cultural change, get potential users involved early on. Make sure that users understand the benefits and take ownership. The Walton Centre, for example, has set up a dedicated e-procurement steering group

  • Make sure that you visit a few reference sites before choosing your e-procurement system - make sure that what you are seeing represents a large part of your current buying process.

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