Early engagement leads to NHS lighting innovation

22 June 2011

22 June 2011 | Lindsay Clark

A fresh approach to procurement has enabled RotherhamNHS Foundation Trust to uncover an innovative lighting proposal for its hospital refurbishment.

While also saving on cost and reducing carbon, the NHS-leading lighting system that the trust is in the process of buying will improve patient experience and give staff better working conditions, said the trust’s head of procurement Steph Holmes.

The trust worked with the Department forBusiness, Innovation and Skills to implement a forward commitment procurement (FCP) process that involves early engagement with suppliers to draw on them to put forward innovative ideas to address the hospital’s needs.

Holmes said the public sector was often reticent about early engagement with the supply chain because of the restrictions placed on them by European procurement rules, which mean buyers can be contested during the procurement process. “[Suppliers] can say, ‘well you didn’t have that conversation with me’. Dialogue therefore tends to dry up,” she said.

The trust engaged the supply chain with a market sounding prospectus and advertised it through knowledge transfer networks and in magazines. It then published a prior information notice on the Official Journal of the European Union, as well as providing an online forum. Interested suppliers were then invited to a workshop to put forward their solutions, which led to competitive dialogue with consortia over the technical detail.

The suppliers were selected according to outcome-based specifications, which included a “step change” in patient experience, a significant reduction in carbon emissions and a more efficient maintenance process. “We knew what we did not want – we did not want what was on the market today,” Holmes said. “It got to a point when we saw a supplier who was offering an ultra efficient lighting solution where we just sat up and said: ‘now that’s innovation’.”

A demonstration ward will be fitted and assessed by staff, patients and managers during July, before being taken down for winter demand. The trust hopes to implement the final product next summer, she said.

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