Buyers 'critical' to future of NHS, says chief executive

16 January 2013

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16 January 2013 | Adam Leach

The chief executive of the NHS has told buyers they are “critical” to ensuring publicly funded healthcare can continue to be provided at a high quality but a lower cost.

Speaking yesterday at the London Procurement Partnership  conference, Sir David Nicholson, chief executive, NHS, said: “We need a torrent of enthusiasm for this kind of work because it is critical to the success of the NHS.”

In his speech, he highlighted the progress that had been made in making the service more efficient, with £4.3 billion saved in 2009/10 and £5.8 billion in 2010/11, and revealed the NHS is on track to save more than £5 billion this year.

But while he welcomed the savings that had been delivered, he stressed much greater efficiency was required to deal with economic challenges.

He said: “It isn’t enough, we need to get more efficiencies from the way we procure because we’re actually going backwards. Both volume and inflation is going up and we are not hitting the relatively modest, in my view, targets that we have around procurement. Whatever it is we’re doing, it’s not delivering us the step-change that we need.”

He urged buyers within the NHS to not focus just on cost, but look for overall value and in particular to look for innovative solutions and products coming onto the market.

He told the audience that to deliver what is required, procurement needs to deliver in six main areas. These were: to become a stronger leader; to fight its corner more; to increase clinical engagement; greater transparency over purchases and prices; clearer distinction about who should be responsible for which purchases, such as at local or regional level; and to promote economic growth through purchasing.

He also suggested that more money should be spent on training procurement professionals within the NHS.

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