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Choosing a supplier for your practice

Advice to help practice managers and GPs find a trusted supplier for their surgery.

Practices should do their research before selecting a supplier (Picture: iStock)
Practices should do their research before selecting a supplier (Picture: iStock)

Finding a trusted GP supplier is crucial to ensure the smooth operation of any practice. The supplier’s role is to consistently provide high-quality equipment and supplies in a dependable and cost effective manner.  

It is important to find a supplier you can rely on to avoid the frustration of always looking for somewhere to source products - and also to avoid running short on the items necessary to effectively run your practice.

Know what you're looking for

Before shopping around, be sure to know exactly what you are looking for. Have a list prepared of all items that will be needed to effectively run the practice, including administration materials and medical supplies. 

When making this initial list, consider the quantities that will be needed until the next order is made. It is important to have enough of everything, however stocking too many supplies can cause unnecessary clutter and can drive up overhead costs.

Do your homework

Once you have established what you need, research potential suppliers. This stage is crucial. There are many resources that you should take advantage of when looking for a supplier, these include:

  • speaking to other practices to see who they use;
  • looking at online reviews from the suppliers’ clients;
  • checking the supplier's status on Companies House; and 
  • extensively researching their website.  

An informed decision is a good decision, so investing time into research is very worthwhile.

Although it may seem slightly unfair or closed-minded, it is often best to avoid new businesses unless you are absolutely sure of their ability to provide what you need. A proven track record is the strongest reference a business can offer their clients, and should be seriously considered when choosing who to do business with. 

Dependability is huge when it comes to a supplier, as they essentially provide you with the tools you need to be successful in your surgery, so why take chances with an un-established company, no matter how good they seem?

Avoid overseas suppliers

If you are looking for a constant source to regularly supply your equipment and materials then choosing an overseas supplier is not recommended. There are many factors that can negatively affect the supplier’s performance, as well as your relationship with them.

Communication can often be difficult due to language barriers. Shipping times will be much longer and can also be very unpredictable, causing you inconvenience. Shipments from overseas are often delayed by customs procedures and inspections, and accrue duties and taxes that may mean you end up paying more than for items purchased in the UK.  

Using a supplier that is in relatively close proximity to your place of business is always a good option, because it will keep shipping times and expenses to a minimum, and make communication simpler.

Test the waters 

It is likely that more than one company will be initially appealing. There is no harm in trying them out for a short period to see how the relationship develops.

Enquire about non-committal ordering for a set time frame to see if the supplier can continually provide what you need as well as offer competitive rates, satisfactory customer service and good quality products. It may be necessary to try out more than one supplier before settling on one that meets all of your needs, and you can then begin to build a positive rapport.

Invest in a business relationship

Once you have selected a supplier you wish to do business with, it is important to invest fully in the client/supplier relationship, so they continue to meet your supply needs for some time to come.

The more business that is done with a particular supplier, the better the relationship will be. This can benefit you by allowing you to earn incentive gifts, better pricing, and peace of mind that you will have the materials needed, and contacts to go to with problems, for advice and to renegotiate terms.

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