Monday, January 03, 2011

Your money, their waste

The Independent runs a story this morning about how the NHS wastes over £1 billion of taxpayers' money a year as managers spend vastly differing amounts on the same supplies.

This is from John Neilson, managing director of NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), who said cash was being needlessly squandered by health trusts which are paying multiple prices for identical equipment - ranging from stationery to surgical instruments.

The story struck a chord, as a "been there, done that one" hardy perennial, that makes you groan inwardly when you see it crop up, yet again – with no fix in sight.

Many years ago, when working as an advisor to a small cleaning chemical manufacturer, we tried to break into the NHS market, selling dishwashing detergent for commercial dishwashing machines at a fraction of the price sold by then the "big three". And we were talking serious money, our price – with a very healthy profit – less than a third of what the NHS was paying for identical products and service.

I will not bore you with the details, but after several years of trying, with impeccable references and going through all the hoops, our sales were exactly nil. And that was by no means the only product or service, where the NHS is being ripped off, as John Neilson once again points out.

What is so utterly bizarre is that this information is well known and long known. Any number of people – including myself - given a few months in the NHS with sufficient powers could save millions. But it never happens. Year, on year on year, the money drains away.

We pay, they waste ... and we're supposed to be grateful when they come back for more?