The NHS’s rollout of inventory management systems will reach just 20 trusts in its first two years, despite an internal report saying these systems are the best way to make savings and improve efficiency in supply chains.
The 2023-24 planning guidance charged NHS Supply Chain with leading “the implementation of an inventory management and point of care solution”. Between 40 and 50 trusts currently have an IMS, according to NHSSC.
NHSSC commissioned a review last year that found “improved inventory management represents the most significant cash-releasing saving and operational efficiency available in supply chain management within the NHS”.
However, NHS England has allocated £15m to roll out to just 20 trusts without a system in the next two years. This will cover three-quarters of the costs for each trust, which will have to make up the rest – though NHSSC said the yearly cost savings are expected to exceed this investment.
NHSSC is taking a piecemeal approach partly because it needs to demonstrate the benefits of improving IMS to not only NHSE nationally, but also to local trust management and clinicians.
It also has to take into account finite capacity within trusts and NHSSC to get these systems operational, NHSSC’s customer and strategy director Sara Ford told HSJ.
She explained that setting up an IMS and point of care solution sometimes “takes six to 12 months”, with an NHSSC team working in-house alongside a trust.
It requires installing the software and hardware that enable staff to scan products and drugs from their arrival at stores to use with the patient, as well as instilling a new mode of working among clinical staff using the systems.
The rollout will bring efficiency and cash savings benefits at a local level, while nationally it is looking “to join the dots up across the system from an inventory perspective,” Ms Ford said.
She added: “If you were in retail, you would know what you had in your central stores [but], at the moment, inventory is very much managed in a siloed way across the NHS. By having the technology connected up we can start to look across the NHS and start to improve the resilience of the supply chain.”
NHSSC has chosen three options as IMS suppliers – Genesis, Ingenika and Elcom – for trusts to adopt. It will look to install the systems in batches of two or three trusts at a time, every two to three months.
The initial 20 trusts will need “a clear C-suite sponsor” to help push it through, Ms Ford said. They will also need “the right personnel on their side to work with our team” and engagement and buy-in from senior clinicians “because we’ll need practices to change on the ground”.
She added trusts will also need to demonstrate “a commitment to take this forward… We talk about our deployment being a sustainable deployment, so we want to get the trusts far enough through the adoption curve such that it is something that is natural for them then to take forwards.”
Date: 9 May