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MPs slam waste in the NHS


26 October 2011

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Ministers have criticised the “unacceptable” amount of money being“wasted” in the purchasing of high-value equipment in the NHS.

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claims the wayhigh-value equipment, such as MRI and CT scanners – worth around £1bn – arebought and used “is not providing value for money for the taxpayer.”

A report by the committee voices its concerns the NHS is “failing” tooptimise purchasing power and shying away from exploiting the opportunity to‘bulk-buy’.


Ministers have criticised the “unacceptable” amount of money being “wasted” in the purchasing of high-value equipment in the NHS.

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claims the way high-value equipment, such as MRI and CT scanners – worth around £1bn – are bought and used “is not providing value for money for the taxpayer.”

A report by the committee voices its concerns the NHS is “failing” to optimise purchasing power and shying away from exploiting the opportunity to ‘bulk-buy’.

At a “crucial time” in which the NHS is being faced with the challenge to find £20bn worth of efficiency savings, chair of PAC Margaret Hodge MP has branded the alleged waste as “unacceptable”.

“Not enough trusts are taking full advantage of the framework agreements the NHS Supply Chain negotiates,” said Hodge.

“Even where they do, money is being wasted because trusts don’t join together to buy equipment and get the best deals by exploiting their bulk-buying power.”

The NHS Supply Chain, an organisation which manages framework agreements between trusts, was found to have, so far, placed no bulk orders for the three machines studied by the PAC report (MRI, CT and Linac).

This is despite the NHS Supply Chain being responsible for purchasing almost 80% of such machines for the NHS.

This represents a “lost opportunity” for savings, claims the report.

Furthermore, the committee claims half the machines in use will need replacing over the next three years, at a cost of £460m.

The report also found stark variations in Trusts’ usage of equipment.

The average number of scans per CT machine varied from around 7,800 to almost 22,000 per year and opening hours ranged from 40 to over 100 hours per week.

Hodge argued she was “shocked” by the “unacceptable” response times for certain conditions.

The committee found 50% of people who have a stroke do not receive a scan within 24 hours, and an estimated 13% of cancer patients are restricted access to life-prolonging radiotherapy.

Trusts are recommended to increase the flexibility with which they manage and use equipment.

“Equipment like CT and MRI scanners play a critical role in diagnosis and treatment and we are investing £150m to expand radiotherapy capacity and over £450m to achieve early diagnosis of cancer,” said Health Minister Simon Burns.

“Already the NHS has saved up to 15% on scanners by working with NHS Supply Chain to co-ordinate large orders over time with other trusts.

“Full savings will not be seen until all trusts make use of this system.”

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