NHS trusts working collectively as a single buyer will reduce costs. © Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
NHS trusts working collectively as a single buyer will reduce costs. © Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Collaborations are key to efficiency in the NHS

Increased collaborations between NHS trusts and buyers and suppliers are needed to reduce inefficiencies, save costs and standardise buying, according to a report. 

The NHS is the fifth largest employer in the world, said the report by BiP Solutions, and can sometimes be “fragmentary” which makes working together effectively a challenge. 

In the report Michael Pace, managing director of corporate services at NHS London Procurement Partnership, said the organisation needs to “start to support the collaboration that drives the efficiencies”.

The report, entitled Health Online Current Trends in Healthcare Procurement, revealed procurement challenges the healthcare sector is facing and how the NHS is transforming to address these.

This follows discussions from the P4H England 2019 healthcare procurement event in July, where BiP Solutions was a partner.

NHS trusts have been duplicating spend by buying services multiple times due to a “fragmented and occasionally arcane procurement system”, said the report. Collaboration would enable trusts to save costs and effort by working collectively as a single buyer to negotiate prices. 

Pace warned that trusts need to find synergies and make strategic decisions together, otherwise the NHS “won’t have the financial and operational sustainability to build collaboration across the system and achieve targets”.

Greater Manchester was highlighted as an example where collaboration has achieved results, with trusts “compromising” through standardisation of spend and applying it at local levels to bring sustainability benefits. 

Neil Hind, procurement lead for corporate services at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said that efficiencies are only possible if the suppliers understand how to work with trust partnerships and believe collaborations will work. 

Communication with stakeholders and organisations is also key to ensure collaboration happens across the organisations, not just across procurement teams, said Hind.

Health Online, a new online platform for the healthcare community, has been introduced to increase engagement between buyers and suppliers and share best practices.

The report also explored the importance of more training for healthcare procurement professionals and better supplier relationship management.

Meanwhile, The Department of Health and Social Care has announced a four-year contract to create a nationwide procurement platform that will consolidate 10 central NHS agencies onto a “standardised eCommercial system”. The aim is to bring together procurement activity and reduce costs.

In May, a leaked NHS discussion paper on the future of procurement in the health service recommended moving to a centralised model.

The Procurement Target Operating Model Design Blueprint said procurement “will move to a standardised category-led approach, which will see the majority of spend categories managed through a single aligned approach, once, at national level”.

The document continued: “The balance of where the majority of strategic, operational and transactional procurement activity takes place will shift from the local level to larger scale delivery functions serving multiple customer footprints.”

It said “transactional, repetitive, processes will be automated to free up our people to undertake more rewarding value-add activities”.

The report said procurement currently takes place at “all scales of the NHS” and it was “uncoordinated and highly variable”. 

The future model will involve investing in skills and career development, while “category leadership, contract management, supplier management and business/clinical partnering will be prioritised as areas of focus for future expertise”.

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