A landmark project, which has created the first ever standardised uniform for use by UK ambulance trusts, is set to deliver £3.4m in savings for the NHS.
The project, which was delivered by the NHS Commercial Alliance and the National Ambulance Procurement Group, will save ambulance trusts the cost of more than an entire year’s expenditure on uniform items (equivalent to around 165,000 garments per annum) over four years – the equivalent of funding approximately 100 paramedics. It will streamline the number of different clothing items used by paramedics and other ambulance staff nationwide, reducing the number of local variations on essential garments such as shirts, t-shirts, trousers, fleeces, jackets and high vis vests from over 80 to just 16. The framework also provides a platform for cost savings, standardisation and rationalisation of a range of additional items procured.
As well as saving the taxpayer an estimated 37% over the four-year duration of the initial contract when compared to the previous costs, the garments have been independently tested to highly rigorous standards to ensure they are the most hard wearing and robust uniform items available to UK ambulance staff.
Daren Hopkinson, Chair of the National Ambulance Procurement Group and Head of Procurement, North West Ambulance Service, said, “This project demonstrates how like-minded NHS organisations across the UK, with a common requirement, can successfully collaborate to achieve quality and efficiency benefits. Ultimately the 37% saving feeds into our organisations’ primary objective, which is sustained patient care.”
In addition to standardising the core items, which form the major part of a staff member’s uniform, the project has also given ambulance trusts access to a pool of approved suppliers to order other work wear items and personal protective equipment (PPE), including helmets and safety footwear, which will create additional cost savings and ensure a compliant route to market for the trusts purchasing them.
The majority of ambulance services in England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland are either now wearing, or in the process of migrating to, the new core uniform.
The new uniform will be phased in as trusts replace worn out items used by existing staff and issue uniforms to new recruits joining the service. The approach creates the opportunity for staff to retain the same uniform if they transfer to other trusts.
Ambulance trusts in the UK spend an estimated £3.2m per annum on uniform, including purchasing around 65,000 shirts and 55,000 trousers. Previously, different trusts used different suppliers and had various local contracts and agreements in place, with widely differing prices and terms.
The National Ambulance Procurement Group (NAPG) identified that major savings could be made by standardising core items of uniform and worked closely with its procurement partner, the NHS Commercial Alliance, to create a framework agreement with suppliers who could guarantee to reach the high goals set for the project.
The resulting contract represents the culmination of considerable hard work, extensive nationwide stakeholder engagement across the UK and a high level of inter-NHS collaboration.
National Ambulance Procurement Delivery Manager at the NHS Commercial Alliance James Richards managed the project. He said, “This landmark procurement has delivered an excellent outcome that has fundamentally changed the way the marketplace operates for ambulance trusts in this category, and achieved substantial savings and operational benefits.”
A new National Uniform User Group has been formed which, with the support of the NHS Commercial Alliance, will monitor the success of the core uniform, assist in the development of future specifications, seek out opportunities for standardisation and rationalisation via Lot 2, share experience among trusts with an objective of driving standardisation, and ensure value for money.
Mark Ainsworth, Chair of the National Uniform Working Group (and Director of Operations, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust), said, “The new framework agreement provides an excellent platform for trusts to procure suitable core uniform and general work wear in a standardised way, demonstrating value for money, which is underpinned by the National Uniform User Group, which is now working collectively to investigate further savings and standardisation opportunities using the framework agreement.”
All English ambulance trusts, along with Wales and Northern Ireland have started utilising the new framework agreement, with Wales and Northern Ireland being the first trusts to convert fully to the new national uniform.