Government aims ethical programme at NHS buyers

1 November 2012

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1 November 2012 | Anna Reynolds

The Department of Health (DH) has launched a training programme to help NHS staff to procure goods and services ethically.

In partnership with the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), the programme will provide practical advice for buyers, helping them to identify poor labour standards and take action through the procurement process and engagement with suppliers.

The initiative follows the publication of the Ethical Procurement for Health workbook, which was launched by the group last year.

ETI director Peter McAllister said: “The NHS has enormous purchasing power and a real opportunity to drive positive changes within its supply chains.

“The health service tends to have long-term contracts, with a relatively stable base of suppliers. From ETI’s experience, we know that recognising workers’ rights translates into cost efficiencies, improved product quality and better transparency in the supply chain.”

The programme includes a film that explores the working conditions in which NHS supplies are produced, a tutor-led training course and three e-learning modules.

While the initiative is not compulsory, the BMA urged procurement staff to undertake the training. Dr Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities at the BMA, said: “Some medical products used in the NHS are produced in unhealthy, unsafe and unfair working conditions. There is also evidence of child labour. We need to change the way we purchase.”

As reported by SM earlier this year, the NHSis taking strides to promote sustainable practice among suppliers and staff – and with its vast purchasing power, any changes it makes could have a significant impact.

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