The Department of Health has issued a call for evidence and ideas on how procurement in the NHS can be transformed, saving an estimated £1.2 billion over the next four years.
The call is the first element of a Procurement Strategy Review, to be conducted by NHS South of England chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers, who emphasises that the NHS "cannot afford to continue as we have always done - we need to radically transform how we deliver services. Our ambition should be to put in place a World Class procurement system in the NHS."
"We need more innovative procurement processes and more widespread procurement of innovation. By harnessing relationships with suppliers, the NHS can adopt existing innovations and stimulate new innovation to deliver quality and value, for both NHS and taxpayers," he writes, adding: "it is vital we have a procurement function that is responsive to creative ideas from suppliers and support their adoption and diffusion at scale and pace across the service."
The Department is seeking views and contributions from the NHS, industry, other government departments, the academic, scientific and third sectors and social care. This could include actions for the Department, wider government, industry, the NHS Commissioning Board, other national bodies, the NHS or other sectors, says the call for evidence, which closes on July 2.
The call was issued on the same day (May 28) as the Department published NHS Procurement: Raising Our Game, a guidance document which sets out actions to be taken immediately by NHS trusts and the Department, focused on outcomes and not just cost, to start tackling key areas for improvements. These are: - levers for change; - transparency and data management; - NHS standards of procurement; - leadership, clinical engagement and reducing variation; - collaboration and use of procurement partners; and - suppliers, innovation and growth.
The Department has also, working with the NHS Supply Chain, established a £300 million cash fund to allow the NHS to bulk-buy large equipment such as CT and MRI scanners, ultrasound machines and cancer treatment technology. Through the fund, £11 million has already been saved through orders that have been placed in advance via the NHS Supply Chain with suppliers.
"This is the first step to better, smarter procurement in the NHS, and we will be working closely with hospital trusts over the next six months to help them save even more money that can be reinvested in patient care," said Health Minister Simon Burns. The £300 million fund has been established in response to recent calls by the Public Accounts Committee for improvements to NHS purchasing of large-scale equipment.