The NHS spends approximately £9 billion on procurement per year, so even small savings can quickly add up into huge sums.  Indeed, it’s estimated that £1 billion could be saved if the NHS adopted modern procurement systems and methods.

King’s College London has teamed up with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT), Virtual Stock and the Behavioural Insights Team to help generate just these kind of cost savings whilst ensuring that quality is maintained.  The team will work on the application of behavioural insights to an online procurement system that is being developed by GSTT.

The partners will monitor how staff are using the system, and how their work environment influences the procurement choices they make.  It will then test out a range of modifications to improve procurement in the trust.

Each modification will attempt to influence how staff buy things in a number of ways, including:

  • highlighting the most ‘popular’ products in a particular category
  • showing the unit price for each product
  • showing the user satisfaction of past purchasers of a product
  • re-confirming with buyers the quantity they wish to purchase
  • prodding buyers to choose the most efficient delivery options

Each change will be tested and measured to determine its outcome in terms of total spend, both by product line and department, as well as exploring things such as the re-order rate of a product and the outcome for the patient.  By comparing these with historical data, the team hope to benchmark best practice, both from within GSTT and across the NHS, whilst also gaining key feedback from users of the system.

Should the system work well, the next step will then be to explore how it can be rolled out more widely across the NHS.