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'Affordable and transparent': HSE's new system for purchasing medicines to cost €1.3 billion

The five-year tender for a dynamic purchasing system will ensure good quality medicines are available on a timely basis, the HSE said.

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THE HSE HAS issued a tender valued at €1.365 billion for its new “dynamic purchasing system” for medicines across the health service.

It has also set up a new team to work with hospitals to help them implement the system.

This new method of purchasing medicines for the health service will mean good quality products are available at “affordable and transparent prices”, a HSE spokesperson told TheJournal.ie.

Such a system is used by the UK’s National Health Service in London, and this HSE contract will provide medicines to acute and non-acute hospitals across the State over five years.

It differs from a normal procurement process where a bidder is awarded a contract and that’s fixed for a number of years. Suppliers can join at any stage depending on the requirements at that time.

According to the Office of Government Procurement, this approach “offsets instability of losing suppliers and increases competition”. It is also a “faster process” than a normal restricted procurement procedure.

As the procurement process remains open, suppliers who didn’t meet the criteria in the first instance can reapply.

The HSE spokesperson said the move to a dynamic purchasing system “represents a new approach as to how medicines have traditionally been procured by hospitals in Ireland”.

“To support this change, a national DPS support team has been established to advise and assist hospital pharmacists on the procurement and contractual knowledge required to achieve legally compliant procurement of medicines,” the spokesperson said. 

The HSE will still continue the current model of pharmacist-led procurement and the introduction of this new system “will not affect patients or their treatment”. 

The objective of the DPS, which will be clinically-led, is to ensure a healthy market where good quality medicines are available at affordable and transparent prices on a sustainable and timely basis.

In Budget 2020, the health allocation was increased by 6.3% to €17.4 billion. It comes after repeated budget overruns in the HSE. 

HSE boss Paul Reid told an Oireachtas Committee that, at the end of September 2019, its budget overrun was €319 million, which is 100% lower than it was for the same period last year when the overruns hit €636 million. 

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Sean Murray

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