The Department of Health has unveiled a new Commercial Operating Model to help improve commercial and procurement skills throughout the National Health Service, to foster an environment in which commissioners are confident in managing healthcare markets to improve care as well as value for money.

Necessity – not nicety, A new commercial operating model for the NHS and Department of Health, underscores the importance of commercial acumen to achieving the standard of care expected from a world-class health service, and sets out a new operating model for the application of commercial skills across different levels of the health service.

The need to boost the NHS’ commercial prowess has, in part, been fuelled by the current difficult economic climate and the growing need for the Service to “make the most of every penny of the taxpayer's money” while continuing to improve patient care, explained Director General of Commissioning and System Management, Mark Britnell.

To this end, the COM includes plans for the creation of new regional Commercial Support Units, which are designed to offer healthcare providers and commissioners support in improving commercial skills and gaining more value from procurement.

New centre for DH
In addition, a new commercial centre - the Procurement, Investment and Commercial and Division - will be set up within the Department of Health to strengthen its own commercial and procurement support and ensure it stays aligned with the “wider commercial landscape”.

Furthermore, the government says the 10-year NHS Supply Chain contract will be expected to become more efficient in providing value for money, and that functions of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency – which acts as a strategic advisor on supply issues - will be handed over to organisations that can “add greater scope, scale and impact to the procurement of goods and services”.

According to Britnell, it is hoped that the new COM will deliver a “step change in commercial capability” that will ultimately raise the standard of commercial knowledge at all levels across the NHS, to ensure the “appropriate support and structures are in place to deliver efficient, innovative and responsive care for patients”.