A healthy regard for buying

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
10 December 2013

Paul Snell10 December 2013 | Paul Snell

At first glance, the revelation 
from the Department of Health’s deputy director of procurement policy and research John Warrington in this month’s cover feature is rather shocking.

According to the co-author of the new NHS Procurement Strategy, a number of hospital chief executives have told him that purchasing will never be in their list of top priorities.

As a taxpayer, initially this appeared outrageous to me. How dare they dismiss such a large opportunity to save money and improve efficiency in the health service!

A more sober contemplation perhaps makes 
the comment more justifiable. Newspapers and bulletins are regularly 
filled with stories about failings in patient care, drug decisions and disgruntled doctors. 
With all these issues 
(and more) demanding attention, purchasing issues have to take their place at the back of a never-shortening queue.

Of course, that’s not to intimate procurement is not important. A spend of £20 billion ranks alongside the biggest private sector businesses. But the quandary for purchasers working in the health service is how they can get this message across to the senior management.

Much will depend on the appointment of the NHS ‘procurement champion’ – and his or her ability to evangelise and engage CEOs – as well as the support given to non-executive directors to “challenge and champion” purchasing in trusts.

Equally crucial is the onus that now rests on NHS buyers to prove the link between their procurement activity and the chief executive’s list of priorities. Demonstrating how improved purchasing could ease the burden on an accident and emergency department, or how the supply chain could influence surgical success rates, is sure to make the boss sit up and take notice.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to 
all readers.

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