The commissioning mission

14 June 2011
Lindsay Clark, international news editor, Supply Management“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” says one phrase. I’m not sure if it is also true to say “the supplier of my supplier is my friend”, but the NHS and local government will certainly appreciate help from commercial landlords at the moment. If stories in this morning’s papers are to be believed, property providers are due to support financially challenged social care provider Southern Cross by accepting a rent cut. There will be a collective sigh of relief from government commissioners, who once looked set to have their contingency planning tested to the limit. With local authorities responsible for housing elderly people in their care, they would have had a struggle to find places for them all if the supplier had gone under. Southern Cross itself had already moved to reassure government and investors this would not have happened. “The financial restructuring will not affect the provision of quality care in any of our homes,” said the company’s chairman Christopher Fisher in a statement last week. Many intelligent questions about the situation have already been put forward by Colin Cram, former director of North West Centre of Excellence and now a public sector procurement consultant. But whether public sector procurement has the answers is critical right now. Both the NHS and local government are about to go full tilt at commissioning, potentially placing billions of pounds of services in the hands of private sector suppliers. The professionals responsible must be wondering if they have the skills to take on the role that underpins a cornerstone of government policy.
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