Department of Health commercial director Jin Sahota and his team are transforming NHS purchasing, turning it into a cohesive and powerful procurement entity
Mention disposable gloves to a hospital-based procurement professional, and they are likely to respond with a groan… or worse. The seemingly innocuous medical gloves became a touchy subject in 2011, when the UK National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that 652 different types were being bought by NHS trusts. Some variation (size included) is required of course, but glove-gate was seen as indicative of a waste of resource the health service could ill afford. It also sparked a realisation that leaving each hospital to strike its own deals on commonly used items made no logical or financial sense.
It wasn’t the first study to challenge poor procurement and inefficiency in the NHS, nor was it the last, with the 2015 Lord Carter report, Productivity in NHS hospitals, seemingly providing a tipping point. This set out how trusts can reduce unwarranted variations in running costs, sickness absence, infection rates and prices paid for supplies and services, thereby saving the NHS £5bn a year by 2020/21. One of its proposals was a Procurement Transformation Plan, now under way, which is one of the highest-profile overhauls in government. It has also led to the Future Operating Model (FOM), which outlines how the NHS will soon purchase goods. And the hope is that the result will be an annual saving of £600m by harnessing the combined buying power of the NHS – benefitting patients, the procurement profession and the system as a whole.