Civtech challenge: How we can transform the reuse of products for NHS Scotland

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NHS Scotland buys over £2 billion worth of goods and services each year. Whilst a large amount of this spend focuses on single use medical products and pharmaceuticals , NHS Scotland also buys a lot of products (including medical devices) which could be re-used but current systems mean that they often end up of waste.

Medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, blood glucose machines and walking aids are often allocated to a an individual and at the end of their ‘first life cycle’ are discarded as waste. These items could be remanufactured and tested allowing re-use through multiple life-cycles. It is estimated that over 50% of all items purchased may be suitable for remanufacture.

Key to this is a way to keep track of the assets and this does not currently exist. So the Challenge is centred on creating an efficient and robust system to monitor NHS resources from first deployment through to return, tracking them through the refurbishment processes so that they become fully compliant with NHS standards and ready for re-use.

This is a huge area to consider, and any MVP developed might only tackle one aspect of an eventual ‘big solution’. But the Challenge Sponsor is keen to explore how that big solution might look, including approaches to the tracking of assets, the use of refurbishment hubs, and even ways to recover used equipment from non-NHS locations.

How can we transform refurbishment hubs, and the re-use of products for NHS Scotland?

Why the Challenge Sponsor is focused on this

Historically NHS Scotland, like many parts of the public sector procurement has been based on short-term capital funded models which result in the purchase, use and then disposal of products. NHS Scotland National Procurement is responsible for the procurement of 70-80% of all products and services used by NHS Health Boards across Scotland.

A significant number of products are delivered directly to NHS Board premises by NHS Scotland using a logistics contract with stock held at the NHS Scotland National Distribution Centre. This provides a unique opportunity to directly influence NHS Scotland practice and to make changes at a national level. It also provides an opportunity for the NHS to directly support reverse logistics and the movement of products back to regional and central hubs.

In line with the Scottish Government Making Things Last Strategy the intention for NHS Scotland is to increase procurement based on circular economy principles, this will result in a greater reliance on take-back, refurbishment and the development of local and national. Chain of custody, use, recovery and refurbishment data will need to be recorded using a pan- NHS Scotland and potentially pan-public sector system which will need to dovetail with existing procurement systems, hubs as well as OEM systems

Discussions with ZWS and HIE have focused on the development of refurbishment hubs to develop a network of business in Scotland, providing training and skilled jobs. NHS Scotland National Procurement in an effort to stimulate the market has built circular economy and refurbishment trials into a limited number of procurements.

The key limiting factor of the trials and the establishment of hubs has been a data system. The data system will need to link multiple data sets and ensuring appropriate confidentiality at each and every stage. It has been described as the glue which will join all the different aspects of this national project together.

What the Challenge Sponsor would like to see from the solution

NHSScotland has worked with Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) on a relatively large number of small-scale projects to support the circular economy and reduce waste. These have delivered successful outcomes. In addition, NHS Scotland put in place an IT system to share surplus furniture which in its first three years of operation has resulted in a £1m cost saving. These projects demonstrate that there is both the drive and ability at national and NHS Board level to make changes which result in measurable economic, social and environmental benefits based on circular economy principles.

A large national project working in partnership with HIE and potentially Scottish Enterprise is being developed based on one or more refurbishment hubs being fed by local and national collection systems. This project is in the draft stage and an outline case is being prepared by ZWS on behalf of the project partners. Funding for the wider-project will be drawn from a number of sources which are likely to include ERDF funding (via ZWS) and Climate Kic (to be agreed).

This initial application to CanDo relates to the data system only and focuses on the development of an innovative, bespoke system which meets current and projected requirements but is adaptable to the wider project as it grows.

What would success look like in measurable terms? What is the one metric that matters?

If successful the system will enable the development of circular economy refurbishment hubs for the public sector (this EOI focuses on NHS). It will reduce the purchase of goods and will support the Scottish Government Circular Economy aspirations. It will provide costs savings but these cannot be estimated at this time. However the economic benefit will go beyond purchase costs as it will increase skills and training and the development of jobs in Scotland.

Transition from a linear to more circular systems of procurement and supply poses challenges for public sector procurers and also the manufacturers and suppliers of goods and services.

The data available from the new system is expected to significantly improve the understanding of how products are used, and will change procurements and the purchasing of equipment to increase value for money across the NHS and the wider public sector in Scotland.

What resources will the Challenge Sponsor provide?

Dedicated project management team and a project manager will be allocated. Support is also confirmed from the previous NSS CivTech challenge sponsors (Jonathan Cameron) and insight and lessons learned from this will be applied to this challenge.

The stakeholders that would be involved, and the team would require access to

NHS Scotland procurement and logistics teams and existing data systems.

Third party systems (as yet to be identified) for remanufacturing organisations.

Systems including software, APIs and databases the solution will need to work with and / or integrate with

The integration of the system is anticipated to be a barrier and this will require further exploration as part of the CivTech accelerator.

What's in it for the successful solution provider: the commercial opportunity from initial contracts to national and international potential

Any organisation that buys, uses or has the requirement to track assets will  require the system. Any organisation with a commitment to the circular economy will need to ensure that remanufactured goods can re-enter the procurement supply chain and will want to monitor and report on this.

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