NHS trusts across England have saved £288 million in the last financial year by securing the best deals for bulk buy items – including £106,000 on loo rolls after 184 trusts joined together to purchase them from one supplier.
Other savings include £824,000 on couch rolls after 227 trusts clubbed together to buy them from one supplier, and a £164,000 saving on temporary shoes by 141 trusts.
More cash has been saved on essentials such as syringes and disposable gloves, with the money saved reinvested into other services and equipment.
The progress is thanks to trusts now being able to compare how much their neighbours have paid for commonly purchased items so they can negotiate the best deals with suppliers, as well as clubbing together on some orders and buying in bulk.
NHS Improvement oversees a price comparison tool that allows trusts to view the most expensive and cheapest options for more than a million products.
It also sets a benchmark for each product to help trusts avoid paying more than they need to.
One trust has saved £150,000 in the first month of using the tool, after seeing that others were paying less for exactly the same product – implanted cardiac defibrillators – and it gave them the evidence they needed to renegotiate the price with their supplier.
Another saved £150,000 in the first month after it helped them get a better deal on prosthesis.
NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton said: “As we develop the long-term plan for the NHS, we are driving efficiency across the sector to make sure that every penny of the additional investment does not go to waste.
“It is great that trusts are increasingly securing the best prices for their everyday essentials, like disposable gloves and syringes.
“This is good for patients as the money freed up can be reinvested elsewhere and it is what taxpayers deserve.”
NHS Improvement said further improvements to how NHS trusts purchase their most commonly used items will achieve more savings – for example, they could free up £5.6 million a year if they paid the minimum price for a box of examination gloves.
Prices charged for a pack of 100 examination gloves vary from 65p to £1.84 currently, and it is estimated that hospitals use nearly seven million examination gloves a year.
The money freed up could pay for 896 knee replacements or 790 hip replacements.
There is also a huge discrepancy in the cost of radiology syringes, with prices charged for a pack of 50 radiology syringes varying from £324 to £553.
Paying the minimum price could save £3.7 million nationally, which could pay for 28 ambulances or 74 rapid response vehicles.
Health Minister Steve Barclay said: “As part of putting an extra £20 billion a year into the NHS, it’s more important than ever that we ensure money is effectively spent and harness new technology to identify where high prices are being paid and challenge this.
“Just as retail customers often use price comparison sites, we are using similar principles within the NHS to identify where trusts are paying more than others and using comparative data to drive down procurement costs.”
Amber Jabbal, head of policy at NHS Providers, said: “This data demonstrates how hard trusts are working to deliver savings wherever possible and the impressive progress already made.
“The money saved on everyday items used by the NHS represents real savings which can be reinvested back into patient care.
“Trusts know that there are more savings which can be made through contracts and everyday products, but these one-off savings are likely to make up a small proportion of the £3.6 billion expected of the sector this year.”