UKprocure have announced the establishment of the NHS Trading Network (NHSTN), which brings together 53 NHS organisations nationwide in one electronic procurement system.

The organisations, which include trusts in East London, Oxford, the North-East and Hampshire with a total spend of £1bn, are now banding together in an ‘eMarketplace’ in the aim of achieving savings through streamlining procurement and economy of scale.

Bob Telford, programme director of one of the groups involved in the scheme, the North East Patches Shared Financial Systems Project, said: "The creation of the NHSTN marks a significant change in the way the NHS does business. The scale of our collaboration signifies the groundswell of commitment to modernising procurement and working together to maximise cash-releasing savings."

Mario Varela, head of procurement and supplies at Barts and The London NHS Trust, one organisation that uses the system, added that they were aiming to expand the scope of the network: "We are committed to establishing a common procurement platform, which is available to an infinite number of other public sector organisations.

"We are actively engaged in recruiting additional buying organisations and the strength of our existing network has resulted in unprecedented success in supplier adoption."

According to UKprocure, the advantages of electronic procurement include lower transaction processing costs, clearer contracting with suppliers, and reduction of errors and duplication, as well as the extra power that comes from buying in bulk.

Suppliers are encouraged to join the catalogue as it gives them access to the large number of organisations in one link, and they can share in the benefits of using only one system to access the market.

The project, which uses Oracle 11i business software, has been running for over a year and a half. Members are now being encouraged to standardise their technology, especially around electronic invoicing.