NHS told to do better buying high-tech equipment

CT scanner
Image caption CT scanners were one of the "high value" pieces of equipment looked at

The NHS in England risks wasting money on the purchase of high-tech equipment such as scanners, a watchdog says.

The National Audit Office looked at "high value" products such as CT and MRI scanners and radiotherapy machines known as linacs.

It warned that half of all these would need replacing in the next three years at a cost of about £460m.

But it said the NHS risked not getting value for money because it was not collaborating on buying the equipment.

The warning echoes similar concerns raised by the watchdog in February about the purchase of everyday supplies such as bandages and paper clips.

Then, the NAO said £500m a year could be saved through more joined up procurement.

Bulk orders

In its latest report, the NAO said once again too many hospitals were going it alone.

While there is no longer a centrally-run purchasing system, an agreement is in place to allow trusts to put bulk orders in.

But a quarter of purchases are made outside these agreed discounted rates.

And the watchdog said the rising use of such equipment - over the last 10 years the use of diagnostic CT and MRI scans has increased three-fold - meant improving purchasing arrangements was essential.

However, a lack of clear data and the wide utilisation rates meant the NAO was unable to put a figure on how much was being wasted in the NHS.

The report also pointed out that the NHS's provision of such equipment per head was still significantly lower than many other European countries.

NAO head Amyas Morse said tackling the problems would be "challenging".

The Department of Health said the report had raised a number of issues that would "help improve the situation".

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