Headlines: September 29th, 2000

An initiative is being launched to improve the environment of hospital wards with the creation of new budgets for ward sisters and a trial of bank-style credit cards. Ward environment budgets will be worth a minimum of 5,000 pounds in 2001/02 with 2500 pounds being made available for the remainder of the current financial year.The budget can be spent on whatever the nurse managers’ consider will best enhance patient care or improve the working lives of staff. This includes improvements and repairs to the ward itself, medical and non-medical equipment, and consumables. The one restriction is the budgets cannot be spent on staff pay costs, or other staff related costs, such as training.

In a move to cut out the paperwork involved in budgets, 250 wards sisters are piloting the use of a NHS Purchasing Card. The cards will allow ward sisters to order direct from suppliers. The sum spent will be recorded electronically and the ward sister will receive monthly expenditure statements, similar to those sent to bank customers. It is expected that 50% of ward sisters will be using the card by April 2001.

The NHS purchasing card scheme has been in use since 1997 and it is operated by NatWest. The card is VISA based and can be used with any supplier who uses the VISA system. Competitive charges are levied on the supplier. There is no charge to NHS users.