Innovation way forward for NHS

From an NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) perspective, the post-election period throws down the gauntlet.

The UK government’s manifesto pledge to enable the terminally ill to die in their place of choice is a challenge to commission appropriate domiciliary care services. Procurement must influence the marketplace to make structural changes and think imaginatively to influence providers’ recruitment and retention practices.

Procurement also needs to support the pledge to ensure patients can access GP services seven days a week – innovative solutions will be required.

A fundamental of any market is the ability for customers to make informed decisions. The manifesto states that patients will be given more information. Procurement must ensure such data is accurate, meaningful, and those responsible for disseminating it do so in an open, transparent and unbiased format.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is a commitment towards further integration of health and social care. Closer working relationships with local authorities are inevitable, presenting procurement with an opportunity to take a lead in shaping the emerging commissioning landscape.

The challenge for procurement will be about driving up quality standards as well as containing costs.

Some may argue that a period of stability is needed, citing the disruption caused by the abolition of Primary Care Trusts and creation of CCGs and CSUs. However, it would be naïve to expect the next five years to be static. The organisational upheaval of integration presents another challenge.

The closer involvement of local authorities may represent another test to CSUs; once they have gained an understanding of NHS procurement, some may wish to enter the market sector for the provision of healthcare procurement services. Examples can already be seen of local authority procurement teams becoming commercial providers, and more procurement functions are broadening their role, recognising the potential for generating revenue. They may well gain a foothold via integration and start to erode the CSUs market share. Competition is ultimately good for the customer; it would be paradoxical for procurement professionals to think otherwise.

Ultimately the post-election procurement challenges require motivated, innovative people, managed by innovative leaders. Maintaining the status quo is not an option.

Mark Abrahams is a procurement market management and transformation consultant

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