NHS trusts should appoint board members accountable for procurement

29 May 2012

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29 May 2012 | Adam Leach

NHS trusts should appoint both an executive and non-executive board member with accountability for procurement, the Department of Health has said.

As part of the department’s push to reform procurement across the NHS, Raising our game, published yesterday, outlined a number of recommendations designed to improve purchasing in NHS trusts. Two of the 12 suggestions were giving procurement a higher profile at senior levels by assigning responsibility for it to two board-level representatives.

Trusts should appoint a board executive to be accountable for procurement performance, preferably the operations or commercial director,” said the report, which added: “Trusts should nominate a non-executive director to sponsor the procurement.”

In the announcement, the department called for better buying of medical equipment and more bulk purchasing in order to drive efficiency. In order to support this it announced a £300 million cash fund to enable the NHS to bulk buy expensive pieces of equipment such as MRI and CT scanners. It said that through bulk buying, £1.2 billion could be saved over the next four years.

Andy Brown, managing director of business solutions at NHS Supply Chain, said: “This important development will allow NHS Supply Chain to group together the purchasing power of the NHS for this vital equipment, make large commitments to suppliers and bring improved planning to the management and replacement of this equipment across the NHS and with suppliers.”

Other recommendations for the trusts included sharing their spend data with other trusts to enable better benchmarking, have trust audit committees carry out regular reviews of procurement, and that they should publish all tender and contract information for contracts over £10,000.

Commenting on the report, CBI director for public services Matthew Fell, said: “This report is a positive step towards improving NHS procurement efficiency and meeting ambitious targets for budget savings. Making savings through smarter procurement should be on the agenda of every NHS board in the country, and we look forward to the publication of the government’s full strategy later in the year.”

In addition, Sir Ian Carruthers, chief executive of NHS South of England has written to representatives across the NHS and the healthcare sector in a call for ideas on how to improve procurement. In his letter, he said: “We know that procurement can play a valuable role in driving quality and value and stimulating the economy. While some improvements in NHS procurement are evident, the pace of change is not sufficient to meet the financial challenge facing the NHS.”

Buyers looking to submit ideas can find further information by clicking here.


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