NHS Trust procurement…what next?


NHS Trust procurement…what next?

The radical change in NHS national procurement to leverage economies of scale and have central procurement ‘towers’ provided by category professionals certainly looked good when it was presented four years ago…

The NHS Acute Trust procurement community agreed with the principle but bitter experience told them to manage their expectations as ‘experts’ from other sectors had previously heralded great opportunities to save money in NHS procurement but stumbled at the delivery stage. This is where complicated barriers in the form of clinical acceptance and contract compliance were difficult to overcome.

With the ‘towers’ being largely provided by existing public procurement bodies there has been no seismic change to the approach so outcomes have been underwhelming.

Whether the ‘towers’ have been a success depends on two things; what were your criteria for success and do you know what the towers have saved you?. Let’s look at these two factors. 

What were your criteria for success?

At a minimum you want the ‘towers’ to return savings equivalent to the ‘top sliced’ funding contribution made by each trust with an additional amount for the estimated savings local trust procurement could have made if they had managed the categories.

Do you know what the ‘towers’ have saved you?

The benefits tracking of savings has turned into an industry. With each trust now paying for the service up front, finance teams are heavily involved and want forensic savings reports in line with finance definitions.

The clever art of claiming recurrent procurement savings for the length of contracts awarded is not embraced by all finance teams.

If you can’t clearly evidence a saving and remove it from a budget then it doesn’t count towards the CIP target.

Products that promise better patient outcomes, waste reduction, or longer shelf life to avoid expiry aren’t going to help the CIPs figure unless they can be evidenced.

What can Trust procurement teams do?

We have to accept that with the ‘top slicing’ now agreed that contracting for goods and services will continue to take place at national level. The role of trust procurement will evolve away from contracting and require different skills.

Compliment national contracting through: 

  • Building contract specifications for bespoke trust services and using national contract frameworks.
  • Physically implementing national contract changes and managing stock availability.
  • Engaging with end users to agree product changes and ensuring key clinical staff have input to national procurement user groups.
  • Managing local product catalogues to support Scan4safety and patient level costing.

Aligning to the regional ICS:

  • Local trust procurement teams will need to align with local Integrated Care System agendas to support regional initiatives and to share expertise.
  • Joint workplans at a regional level for high spend areas have been proven to provide savings by taking regional volumes into national frameworks.

Standardisation can be achieved at ICS level if clinical structures are in place to support decision making and implementation.

  • Expertise in clinical procurement, e-procurement and complex contracting (e.g. Pathology or Radiology) is best resourced at regional level.

This is a gradual change process for trust procurement and, depending on the existing regional maturity, a staged approach can be developed.

The finance community can’t expect a big reduction in pay costs by regional working, it is more to retain specialised contracting resource and then to develop skills into new areas to work more closely with clinicians, develop the e commerce expertise to maximise the benefits of catalogues and bar code technology.

As Trusts within regions are naturally competitive, a regional resource to create and develop the joint work plan and build a business case for change is a good starting point to begin partnership working.

How can Attain help? We can: 

  • Support you developing a regional business case for change
  • Work with trusts to develop and manage a joint work plan
  • Establish regional governance structures to deliver change
  • Support complex procurements and provide tendering and specification support

 If you’d like a member of the team to contact you, click here 

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