A lot has been written about non-clinical consultants’ daily rates and the process of their employment in the NHS.
One would hope lessons have been learnt and finally we have a memorandum of understanding. But just a few days ago I had a request to procure project management services for a consultant.
We requested specifications of the required services, deliverables and milestones, only to learn that actually it was a ‘work in progress’ and it was not possible to provide job requirements, never mind deliverables and milestones. Internal stakeholders had already spoken to the chosen consultant as they knew the person from previously commissioned work and their valued input.
So the situation is as follows: the service lead would like to spend £50,000 on consultant work for 10 days a month, on a seven-month project. They cannot provide details concerning agreed deliverables because these are not available. The consultant is very frustrated with procurement because they were chosen by team, have worked with them over the last few months and now cannot be paid until the contract is redacted, agreed and signed. The consultant is a victim, having provided project management in good faith.
Imagine the £50,000 is your own money. How would you ensure the best value? Would you pay a prospective contractor a high daily rate for weeks of discussions, before you establish the work you would like to commission and actually pay for? Or would you rather decide what you want upfront and then commission a work?
Sometimes we do not know the details about the work we would like somebody to do for us, but we would like to share a vision and clarify our thoughts. We may feel a redesign is due to make the service more efficient but we are not sure about the finer details. If that is the case it is worth – before parting with a penny - considering whether the time is right to move forward with a project. It is advisable to resist pressure for change until the team know what they want, can clearly specify and describe the anticipated deliverables.
It is all too easy to spend public money, and unfortunately imagination often fails us when we are trying to apply private strategies when dealing with a procurement process. But the best premise for success is clarity. And the best premise for best value procurement is our own knowledge and confidence as to what we want. A focus on detail is what required.
☛ Renata Towlson is a category manager at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust