A major new procurement platform that will transform the way the NHS buys its products and services – currently some £9bn of annual spend across the country – is being used by NHS trust staff for the first time.
The Edge4Health, a cloud-based, consumer-style marketplace – developed by NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) and technology company Virtualstock to deliver cost savings and efficiencies, better data management, greater compliance and end-to-end supply chain visibility – has been launched at some of the country’s leading NHS trusts.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are the first organisations in the country to go live with The Edge4Health.
More than 1,000 NHS employees are now using the platform to buy thousands of goods and services every day – almost a million products ranging from syringes to pacemakers, laptops to imaging equipment. Whether direct from the supplier or through the NHS Supply Chain catalogue, requisitioners can select products and services via a familiar consumer-style experience.
In the last three months more than £8million NHS spend has been transacted via The Edge4Health, which is now being rolled out widely across the NHS – starting with around 60 NHS trusts that currently use NHS SBS finance and procurement services.
The technology brings together thousands of suppliers and NHS organisations on to one easy-to-use platform, streamlining the buying process, whilst reducing errors and delays in ordering and invoice payment.
As quality data management and interoperability between ordering and inventory management systems become increasingly vital for NHS trusts, The Edge4Health enables clean data to be fed into existing systems, improving reporting and transparency of spend.
Product details are easily uploaded on to the system by suppliers – a shift from previous practice where the onus was on NHS organisations to manage their own catalogues. Suppliers can include rich data, images and more accurate and up-to-date product information, whilst attaching relevant supporting data and notifications to all NHS trusts of product stock-outs, specification changes and discontinued lines within the system.
Those managing contracts and approving prices on behalf of an NHS trust can do so in The Edge4Health. They are able to use the marketplace to search for the products and services they require from multiple suppliers, helping them achieve best value-for-money and drive efficiencies for their organisation.
NHS requisitioners only see the products and prices that have been pre-approved by hospital procurement teams, which means compliance is built-in, spend is more visible and budgets are much easier to manage.
The interoperability between The Edge4Health and systems like Ingenica, Integra, Omnicell and Oracle, enables buyers to manage the purchase to pay process all in the same place. Suppliers and their NHS customers see the status of an order at the touch of button and will be able to communicate directly on the platform via a unique communications link, vastly reducing the number of time-consuming queries.
As the system is further developed, additional functionality will be added, including the ability to rate and review products, and check a company’s cyber-security – all on one platform.
The Edge4Health has been developed and refined in partnership with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust – led by NHS South of England Procurement Services (SoEPS), a hosted service of the Trust. As a leader in best-practice NHS procurement, SoEPS has pioneered the technology on behalf of the wider healthcare system.
Alan Hoskins, Director of Procurement at SoEPS, said:
“Some of the key attractions of The Edge4Health for procurement teams across the NHS are that it’s an intuitive consumer-style platform, which helps hospital staff to easily buy products against a contract, and means far less procurement team time is spent on the admin around managing catalogues.
“We were particularly keen to enhance the user experience for those within our own Trust by providing them with an efficient, easy-to-use system. A big positive for us is having supplier-managed catalogues to enable the reallocation of resource – to allow our team to do more valuable work with suppliers around contract negotiations and monitoring, as well as more on the reporting side.
“In addition, The Edge4Health should really reduce the number of invoice queries, which I’m sure the majority of NHS procurement teams would currently describe as a frustrating and time-consuming problem.”
And whilst the benefits to NHS organisations are seemingly endless, the emergence of The Edge4Health has also been welcomed by companies supplying the NHS.
Medtronic is the world’s largest medical technology company and one of the biggest suppliers of medical devices to the NHS.
Kristian Howells, Group Commercial Director at Medtronic, said:
“We are optimistic that the transparency The Edge4Health offers to NHS trusts and suppliers alike will deliver efficiencies. The expansion of e-commerce is delivering brilliantly simple solutions for problems the healthcare sector has faced for some time, which allows us to re-focus on our most important priority: the patient.”
Carefully designed and tested to ensure it meets the specific requirements of NHS organisations across the country, the system is also fully-aligned to national NHS procurement programmes, such as the New Operating Model and eProcurement Strategy, whilst being GS1 compliant and soon-to-be PEPPOL certified.
David Morris, Managing Director at NHS Shared Business Services, said:
“In the NHS, lives depend – quite literally – on having the right product, in the right place, at the right time. Yet until now, the systems to support this have been complex and difficult to use.
“With The Edge4Health, many of the benefits we’re used to as consumers will become available to the NHS for the first time. The intuitive and easy-to-use platform meets the demands of a modern, forward-thinking NHS and will eliminate many of the barriers that – until now – have prevented NHS hospitals from fully meeting Lord Carter’s efficiency targets.
“The meticulous work that has gone into building and refining a digital platform, which can benefit hundreds of individual NHS organisations, has delivered a robust solution that will transform NHS procurement for many years to come.
“The Edge4Health is now a standard part of the NHS SBS service, which we are rolling out at no additional cost to our NHS clients.”
Ed Bradley, Co-Founder at Virtualstock, said:
“We are delighted to be bringing a truly revolutionary, new generation technology to the NHS and we greatly appreciate the overwhelming support from so many suppliers and hospitals.
“Together with our colleagues at NHS SBS, we expect to deliver huge savings and efficiencies to trusts all over the country, which will have a significantly positive impact for years to come.
“This is the beginning of a very exciting journey, as we intend to continually introduce carefully selected innovative technologies to keep enhancing the platform and the value we offer our customers.”