The relationship between procurement and Nottingham University Hospital’s (NUH) NHS Trust’s communications function has been severely tested in recent years.
When it comes to printing at NUH, this is not done in-house because it doesn’t offer value for money. NUH has a print contract with an external company, which acts as a print broker to ensure value for money and printing at the lowest prices. The contract was awarded following an appropriate, competitive tendering exercise in 2009.
I had some reservations, which I shared with our procurement team. My biggest concern as an individual stakeholder was the lack of flexibility the central model offered. When we need print jobs back in the trust within an hour, we mean an hour.
One example of when this was necessary was when we were forced to close our multi-storey car park. We needed to get information out immediately to minimise disruption. Working with our local, trusted printers, we had flyers back within a matter of hours. Under the new arrangements, I lacked confidence such a result could be achieved. I negotiated with procurement that there would be exceptional circumstances when we would need to make other arrangements. This is the basis upon which we work. And it is effective.
While best prices may be sourced using the central model, often the printers are located elsewhere in the country, which meant our turnaround times couldn’t be met. I also wanted to ensure we supported the local economy and was reluctant to disrupt the relationships we had built over many years with local companies.
Working closely with our procurement team to explain why our needs didn’t always fit nicely into the ‘one size fits all’ box was essential. It wasn’t always plain sailing, but we have a better understanding of each other’s needs as a result of this one contract. We’ve learned a lot from each other, ensuring individual service needs can be met, while having a clear, unwavering focus on quality and value for money.
Working together ensures adaptability
1. The central procurement department at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) is responsible for the management, acquisition and supply of high-quality equipment, materials and services required, ensuring purchases and supplies are consistent with trust policy.
2. The department is responsible for a range of activities, including sourcing, supplier and contract management, and purchase requisitioning at one of the country’s largest acute trusts, with 13,000 plus staff and budget of more than £722 million.
3. In the current financial climate, where NUH has £40 million savings targets over the coming year, we have a duty to ensure value for money in all areas of the trust (clinical and non-clinical). There are clear pluses in central procurement overseeing market stimulation and ensuring local competition can thrive. There are, however, some occasions when flexibility is required and this is what we work with procurement to achieve.
☛ Laura Skaife is associate director of communications at NUH NHS Trust
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