THE SCOTTISH NHS could save £150m a year – and give every NHS Scotland a pay rise of nearly £1000 – by teaming up with UK health services to buy equipment and medical supplies, a paper by Our Scottish Future says today.
The report, entitled “Scaling Up”, shows that the NHS in Scotland spends £2.5 billion a year on goods and services. It says the service has done well to achieve procurement savings, and commends its efforts to secure PPE from within Scotland during the pandemic.
But the paper argues that by sharing procurement for many other medical consumables and specialist pieces of equipment with the UK procurement agency NHS Supply Chain, further savings could be made thanks to economies of scale.
Health researcher Andrew Mooney concludes: “We believe NHS Scotland should challenge itself to realise up to £150 million in procurement saving seach year from working with NHS Supply Chain. If such savings through cooperation were achieved, this could pay each NHS Scotland employee an extra £975 each year.”
The report says Scotland’s procurement body NSS has supported Scotland well – with £1bn in goods and services procured from companies registered in Scotland, supporting over 6700 companies.
However, it argues for a UK wide approach in the purchasing of items such as advanced medical equipment and therapeutics where local supplies may not be possible.
Writing the foreword to the report, Professor David Kerr, the leading cancer specialist, declared:
“Scotland’s NHS is a run entirely independently of health services elsewhere in the UK. That is how it should be, but just because the NHS is autonomous, it does not mean Scottish health leaders should not seek to cooperate with the rest of the UK when it is in our interests to do so.”
“When it comes to many of the goods that the NHS buys – from surgical gloves to paper towels – massive cost savings can be made by applying the rule of efficiency of scale.”
He adds: “We show in this paper that if NHS Scotland shared more of its procurement with the UK wide NHS central services, it could free up £150m annually. At a time when nurses and junior doctors are demanding a pay rise and threatening strike action, such a saving could give every NHS worker a pay rise of just under £1000 a year.”
“Devolution works best when we devolve and cooperate. That is the way for Scotland to get the best deal out of the UK.”
The paper also examines the differences in medicines available in Scotland and England and concluded that 19 drugs which have been approved in England are not available in Scotland. Similarly, 5 medicines available in Scotland are not currently available in England.
The report does not support a UK wide approach to regulating drugs, given the high support for the Scottish Medical Consortium’s approach but instead says that greater cooperation in administration may produce greater alignment between the two nations.
Read the report here