Only 14% of NHS trusts have fully integrated computer systems capable of managing electronic requisitioning, ordering, invoice matching and payment, according to an Audit Commission review of procurement and supply.

The commission says that significant improvements have been made in the priority given to procurement and supply since its 1996 report, Goods for Your Health, but that there is considerable scope for improvement. It highlights several areas where greater use of information technology should be made by trusts in the future.

“Information technology is a key requirement for effective procurement and supply management, “states the review. “Trusts’ procurement strategies must set out the direction for information technology in procurement and supply, with reference to the work being carried out on the development of an NHS-wide e-commerce strategy led by the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency.”

It points to six key processes which lend themselves to automation – payment, requisitioning, ordering, invoice matching, receipting and stock management – along with the management information needed for procurement and supply.

The review notes that most trusts have made some progress towards the automation needed and have made considerable efforts to reduce their reliance on paper.

But still fewer than half of all trusts (40%) are able to place orders for goods and services electronically with suppliers other than NHS Logistics and only 48% had the capacity to do internal electronic transfers of requisitions, excluding items from NHS Logistics.

Fewer than one fifth of trusts had met the government’s target for 90% of orders under £100 to be processed electronically by December 2001.

There were also differences in the take-up of electronic ordering by different departments in trusts. Nearly half of all pharmacy departments have invested in electronic ordering compared to 8% of estates departments, 6% in catering and 5% in pathology.

Only one trust in England, the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust processed all requisitions, all order and all invoices electronically.