HCSA said there has been a ‘vacuum’ of NHS procurement leadership ©Lee Haywood
HCSA said there has been a ‘vacuum’ of NHS procurement leadership ©Lee Haywood

New NHS procurement structures may be ‘disastrous’

8 August 2016

Planned changes to NHS procurement are confusing, are being made without consulting health service buyers and are likely to jeopardise current arrangements that are working well.

This is the view of the Health Care Supplies Association (HCSA), which represents procurement and supply professionals within the NHS.

The organisation has strongly criticised the Department of Health, complaining about a series of ‘top-down’ procurement models emanating from Whitehall over the last 25 years and a ‘vacuum’ in NHS procurement leadership.

HCSA believes the new centrally driven Future Operating Model (FOM) for procurement across the NHS planned to replace collaborative procurement, will have potentially disastrous results.

The current proposed design of the FOM “... is not widely understood by the NHS procurement community and certainly not in sufficient depth”, said the HCSA in a statement released on 3 August.

Part of the proposed FOM is a new ‘tower structure’, which is hard to understand, it claims. The structure will consist of 11 category towers and a new Intelligent Client Coordinator unit formed of more than 200 people.

HCSA is also critical of the lack of involvement from procurement people in the wider system. “HCSA must be engaged in the design of the operating model, and given access to key information, including the strategic options analysis and the short listing process which has led to the current, proposed model,” it said.

The association believes current commercial procurement arrangements with the outsourced service NHS Supply Chain are working well and should be extended.

According to HCSA, some NHS Trusts have achieved price reductions of between 24-63% across a range of healthcare consumables, using a collaborative approach.

“There is an immediate need to urgently evaluate the benefits of a further extension to the NHS Supply Chain contract in order to maintain the momentum of these savings initiatives, at a time when savings are critical to NHS stakeholders,” it said.

Extending the current model would allow the NHS to review its relationship with key supply markets, to rationalise and standardise a national NHS product range, and obtain and maintain true market prices, it added.

Pat Mills, the Department of Health commercial director, has agreed to meet with HCSA officers to discuss the issues raised in the HCSA letter expressing its concerns about the FOM.

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