Five ways that healthcare organisations save on workplace supplies

As the NHS addresses the challenge of delivering £22 million in savings by 2020/2021, including £700 million from improved procurement, reducing spend on workplace supplies is inevitably a key area.

While stationery, furniture, cleaning products, office technology and other items may not appear as critical to the frontline as, for example, clinical equipment, working strategically with workplace suppliers can make all the difference when it comes to achieving effective savings, improved performance and delivering genuine long term efficiencies.

With significant financial pressures continuing to exert themselves on the NHS as it works to ensure continuity of frontline staff and the highest levels of patient care, a solid strategy for reviewing workplace supplies can play a small part in easing these pressures.

Here are five factors that healthcare organisations need to take into account when reducing workplace supplies spend:

1. Keep an open mind

Rather than have a fixed idea that certain workplace supplies are ripe for savings, use the same principles as in other categories and keep an open mind. It’s worth considering that the best mix of workplace supplies to help deliver desired outcomes could turn out to be significantly different from any existing assumptions.

It’s understandable for procurement teams to have targets for areas they consider to be low value but working with a framework supplier to discuss these in an open fashion may see trusts identify opportunities for strong savings and improved compliance in a way they did not originally envisage.

Although cutting lower value spend products may appear to deliver quick savings, the significant savings contribution in the long run may come via a very different route.

2. Involve and plan

Regard your workplace supplies partner as an extension of your procurement team. They will be able to provide some strong inputs and help to ensure changes are implemented smoothly if they are involved from the outset.

Whatever the changes likely to be made to product selection and delivery, it will be more successful if everyone likely to be affected internally is also brought in from the start and their support is secured. It’s worth holding a first meeting where everyone can agree priorities and understand the outline objectives.

By understanding the needs of personnel across the organisation, your supplier may identify a previously unseen opportunity to improve overall efficiencies and reduce overall costs. There are cases where increased spending on certain supplies can deliver this or where alternative suggestions need further research.

3. Relationships 

NHS Trusts will always seek to select the best procurement partners and, within this supply base, individuals who are capable of engaging staff at all levels and gaining the trust of departments across the Trust really do matter.

One great potential strength of consolidating the supply chain and doing more with fewer suppliers is the strong working relationships you can build. The personal touch can make a big difference when it comes to managing change, delivering training and ensuring end user satisfaction. Consider the individuals who may become the extension of the procurement team and realise their prospective value, particularly in a heavily cost savings targeted environment.

4. Cross category expertise

Consolidation in workplace supplies can mean looking for cross category expertise from one supplier. Achieving this shouldn’t mean a compromise. A good framework supplier should have expertise in multiple product groups, with specialists able to ensure on-going contract management support for the life of the contract across each of the product areas.

Seek out partners who have experts in each of the product fields, from technology and cleaning through to stationery and furniture. Specialist expertise all under one roof can be complemented by the benefits of fewer invoices, fewer deliveries and less supplier management.

5. On-going support 

The support of specialists throughout the contract life will enable you to continually review where and how savings can be made. Look for full access to your framework supplier so that you know you will receive the on-going support and expertise you need. Contract management support should be constant. Good suppliers will respond effectively to any changing requests and act flexibly as the needs of your organisation change.

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