Health director calls for procurement to be part of operations

15 November 2012

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15 November 2012 | Adam Leach

Procurement should be positioned in the operations side of an organisation rather than finance to drive greater efficiency, according to the Department of Health's commercial director Peter Coates.

Speaking at the Health Care Supply Association 2012 conference in Manchester yesterday, Coates told the audience that, in his view, the standard placement of procurement within finance is wrong. Instead, he argued, the role of finance is to maintain oversight of procurement’s performance, rather than direct it.

“Procurement should not sit in the finance function. I think it is the wrong place for it. It should be under operations, where it would be much more efficient at what it does. I think the finance function should be there to challenge how well procurement does its work, not manage it,” he said.

During his speech, Coates also advised buyers in the health service that if they are to get paid more for the work they do – a recommendation in the Raising our Game paper published earlier this year – they will need to make themselves “indispensible” to NHS Trusts.

“It is not going to happen as some sort of movement that says people in procurement are worth another 25 per cent in pay. What will happen is if you become collectively better at your jobs, then you can become indispensable to the system and the trusts will want to pay you more for your skills because they have to, to survive,” he said.

This week, the NHS Commissioning Board received its official mandate from government to start work on improving the delivery of public health in a range of areas. In particular, it calls for greater competition in the market.

The mandate said: “This calls for the Board to lead major improvements in how the NHS undertakes procurement, so that it is more open and fair and allows providers of all sizes and from all sectors to contribute, supporting innovation and the interests of patients.”

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