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Online auctions, where suppliers bid to provide a group of trusts with a standardised product, can result in huge savings.

innovation_and_efficiency.jpgAnyone who has sold anything on eBay will know the frisson of an online auction, watching the last minute bids coming in and the price rising.

How much more exciting, then, was the e-auction held this year to provide examination gloves to seven NHS trusts? It was, say all involved, unexpectedly thrilling to watch the prices tumble and see £400,000 slashed by asking suppliers to compete against each to offer the lowest price for a given quality.

The e-auction was a collaboration between NHS Supply Chain and the Working Together programme, which comprises seven NHS acute trusts in South Yorkshire, Mid Yorkshire and North Derbyshire that aim to: l act together to improve quality, safety and the patient experience; l deliver safe and sustainable local services; and l make collective efficiencies.

But to start with the e-auction is perhaps putting the cart before the horse. As Mike Pinkerton, chair of Working Together and chief executive of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals Foundation Trust, points out, the auction was the end of a story, not the beginning.

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