This content was produced in partnership with Elcom
One of the biggest overhauls of the NHS in decades has seen England split into 42 integrated care services to help regionalise care. Read on to find out how procurement professionals have helped implement this revolutionary change…
The creation of integrated care services (ICS) is the cornerstone of the biggest overhaul of the NHS structure in decades. Since July 2022, England has been split into 42 ICSs, each covering a region of between one and three million people, replacing 223 clinical commissioning groups. The idea is to join up care for people, places and population – and to regionalise services for all health elements, including adult and social care.
Procurement and supply chain management will play a vital role in helping to ensure the new ICSs can deliver an integrated service, ensuring economies of scale and value for money but also joined-up thinking across the whole health and social care space in a particular region, to minimise waste or stock going out of date.
All this is set against the wider background of other changes, including procurement reforms, the introduction of the Procurement Bill and the ongoing push for digitisation, as outlined in technology trade association Tech UK’s Ten Point Plan for Healthtech. Then there’s the drive towards net-zero and the emphasis on the ‘five Rs’ (reduce, reuse, reprocessed, renewable and recycle), as well as pressure to make better use of small businesses.
Simon Holmyard is vice president of public sector at supply chain technology firm ELCOM. He believes the new arrangements – coming on the back of a post-Covid landscape where innovation is able to develop much quicker – means the role of supply chain professionals has become even more important.
“They have had a far greater role in introducing innovation around net-zero, with buying based on people’s carbon footprint and sustainability. But also in supply chain management and controlling stockpiles, because they have a more holistic view,” he says. “The new gold is in information because that’s what will drive innovation and help to make ICSs work.” He gives the example of sharing a piece of kit across different organisations in the region, or ensuring that a batch of pills in one part of the region that has a six-month shelf-life is used before another part orders in fresh supplies.
ELCOM’s spend and inventory management solutions provide the functionality required for healthcare organisations to effectively manage the sourcing of products and services, and can provide the visibility needed to make better decisions to reduce waste and encourage sustainability. Its tools also incorporate the government’s Scan4Safety initiative, which is designed to improve patient care and safety around the provision of drugs and other materials, extending this concept to minimise waste and eliminate unnecessary purchases.
The systems can integrate into existing ERP or finance packages, and can provide information of the carbon footprint of any item. “It makes for a far more controlled environment around the whole procurement and inventory structure,” says Holmyard.
ELCOM has been working with the Scottish government for the past 20 years – it has helped the country on a similar journey to that on which England is now embarking with ICSs. The PECOS P2P solution manages spend across a million products and more than 25,000 suppliers, integrating with 29 ERP systems.
For ICSs, ELCOM’s solution offers the ability for the new organisations to work with existing packages, removing the need for a wholesale overhaul at a time of significant change.
As well as having valuable insight on which to improve efficiency, an effective spend and inventory management set-up can also help supply chain and other public sector professionals in other ways. “It means you get more hours in the day to do what you want to do,” says Holmyard. A product recall is a good example, he adds; identifying who has received a particular item might have taken days or weeks previously, but can now be done in minutes.
With the new set-up and changes to NHS procurement coming down the line, it’s vital ICSs take steps now to ensure they have the right technology in place to help them deliver in terms of both efficiency and productivity. “The NHS sees ICSs as the linchpin for innovation and data,” adds Holmyard. “You need to put that regime in place to capture and manage the data from the trusts so you can make decisions based on the correct information.”
ELCOM will be running a webinar on the topic of How to deliver SMART procurement & sustainability on 22 November. Confirmed speakers include: James Thirkill, CRO at Culturebox; Leontina Postelnicu, head of health and social care at TechUK; and Martin Traynor OBE, SME crown representative at the Cabinet Office. To find out more and to register, click here.