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Welcome to the machine

 

Selling items of capital equipment, such as MRI scanners, offers a medtech company the opportunity to engage with a hospital’s resource management and supply chain processes. David Wilkins, National Sales Manager at Siemens Healthcare, looks at some routes – both new and old – by which specialist equipment is sold to NHS hospitals.

According to EU legislation, all public sector contracts that are valued above a certain threshold must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Individual invitations to tender from Trusts are then made, and vendors respond to these by stating the product specifications, functionality, costs and service extras.

This well-established process provides NHS Trusts with all the information they need to make an informed decision that best meets their needs. However, new procurement routes have started to emerge through dedicated organisations that advise customers and direct them toward the right purchase.

The power of supply chains

Supply chain organisations operate between supplier and customer, managing the procurement process from beginning to end. They open up dialogue between representatives at NHS Trusts, collaborative procurement hubs, suppliers and clinicians, thus enabling hospitals to simplify the procurement process and acquire new equipment more rapidly.

The leading such organisation in the UK is the NHS Supply Chain. Its framework covers multiple imaging modalities under one agreement, and is aiming to reduce the burden of additional tender exercises and deliver a complete imaging solution to all NHS departments. It works alongside OJEU requirements and evaluates all supplier tenders, using a combination of financial and non-financial elements. Contracts are awarded to the ‘low best tender’, i.e. those suppliers meeting the broadest range of criteria.

Charing Cross Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, recently placed the first order for a high-field MRI system from Siemens via this framework. Jason Lavery, NHS Supply Chain’s Clinical Markets Business Manager, commented: “We were delighted that the first MRI purchase via the new supply chain framework has happened so swiftly and smoothly. This is a fi ne example of how the new NHS procurement process can alleviate lengthy tenders and offer enhanced support to Trusts in the selection of imaging systems.”

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust recently opted for an innovative new CT system, and benefited from the streamlined supply chain approach. Alan Kaye, Radiology Services Manager at the Trust, said: “By spending less time on the procurement process, we can provide patients with more rapid access to modern medical equipment. We were pleasantly surprised at the speed of the process and the advice on offer – we wouldn’t now return to the previous way of doing things.”

Managed Equipment Services

A different type of equipment partnership that is growing in popularity is Managed Equipment Services (MES), which are contracted directly with NHS Trusts. MES is a bespoke agreement with a private sector service provider over a long period of time, typically 15 years. The MES agreement not only assists with the procurement of regular new equipment but also looks after installation, maintenance, staff training and reporting. This ‘one-stop shop’ approach ensures that all technology concerns are addressed, and that a stable financial plan is put into place.

Vendor independence is regularly referred to when discussing MES. This principle ensures maximum choice for hospitals from across the marketplace, regardless of manufacturer. Equipment vendors are well positioned to provide a powerful MES via this route, as they provide customers both with expertise on leading-edge developments and with in-depth analysis of patient workflow to ensure the cost-efficient and effective use of technology.

For example, the MES from Siemens Healthcare gives capital equipment purchases a level of security: it ensures the provision of equipment on a regular basis, together with a dedicated maintenance and upgrading service under a stable financial package. It also provides a helpdesk as a day-to-day resource should any equipment problems arise. This means that any equipment downtime can be quickly resolved by a qualified engineer or remote diagnostic tools. This system means Trusts can be sure that they will continue to experience the benefits of their purchase.

Siemens currently has ten operational projects across the UK, with over 70,000 equipment items (worth over £80 million) installed. These include 33-year and 35-year partnerships with the Barking, Havering and Redbridge and Barts and The London NHS Trusts, two of the largest MES contracts in the NHS (worth nearly £475 million). The first Trust-direct MES was pioneered by Siemens at Airedale NHS Trust in 2001.

Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review placed a major emphasis on care closer to home, with the hope that more and more patients will have access to leading-edge diagnostic systems within their community. This means that it is not only hospitals that require specialist capital equipment, but also GP practices.

Into the future

As the NHS reached its 60th anniversary this July, a number of changes were implemented that mark this milestone in healthcare. Demand for specialist capital equipment is one aspect of the NHS that has changed and will continue to change. Trusts need systems that can meet the health challenges of an ageing population. They also need to be assured that their investments can cope with future technological advancements.

A noticeable recent change has taken place within the purchasers, driving a shift in our marketing and sales strategies. Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review placed a major emphasis on care closer to home, with the hope that more and more patients will have access to leading-edge diagnostic systems within their community. This means that it is not only hospitals that require specialist capital equipment, but also GP practices.

Botesdale Health Centre, a general practice in Suffolk, recently installed a range of specialist medical equipment from Siemens. For this new venture, the centre is working in conjunction with staff at the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust to deliver diagnostic imaging to the local community. Patients will no longer have to travel to hospitals for routine examinations, thus saving them time and reducing pressure on the hospitals.

Dr. Tim Cooke at Botesdale Health Centre commented: “The portfolio of services we now offer to patients in the local area has been significantly increased, giving greater care to the community and offering a wider breadth of services to patients.”

Meeting the challenge

David WilkinsHospitals are under pressure to meet waiting targets and maintain a high throughput of patients. Specialist capital equipment can assist with these challenges by speeding up processes and offering advanced procedures. As we pass the 60th anniversary of the NHS, changes are already afoot that indicate a new and growing demand from the primary care sector, which also needs access to highquality imaging equipment.

Procurement routes for capital equipment range from the well-established and proven OJEU to emerging supply chain and procurement frameworks that provide advice and guidance during the process. Furthermore, partnership-style agreements such as MES can both streamline and offer consultancy during the purchase process. All options need to place the strongest emphasis on value for money and meeting the needs of the clinical environment.

 

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