By The Public Affairs Company, Government Relations consultants
Given the impact it could have on their business, Medilink members who supply the NHS should consider engaging with the Government as it announces the first steps to shaking up its procurement strategy, says Yorkshire based government relations consultants, The Public Affairs Company.
With the Department of Health this week publishing guidance for NHS Trusts on how to improve their procurement practices, it is looking to industry to fully engage with it as it seeks to reform procurement to drive down costs, improve access by SMEs and support businesses to grow.
Among the measures suggested are those aimed at improving transparency and accountability in the process of procurement; calls for greater inter-Trust co-operation; and a recommendation that Trusts should appoint a Board executive to be accountable for procurement performance and should nominate a non- executive director to sponsor procurement.
Ministers believe that reforming the way the NHS purchases goods, services and equipment could potentially lead to of savings of £1.2 billion to re-invest in patient care. Building on Sir Philip Green’s report which called on Government to better use its ability to bulk buy to drive down costs, the Department of Health, working with the NHS Supply Chain, has to date already established a £300 million cash fund to enable the NHS to bulk buy large equipment such as CT and MRI scanners, ultrasound machines, and cancer treatment technology.
In declaring that the NHS needs to “buy smarter and get the best value for the taxpayer for every penny spent”, Health Minister, Simon Burns MP has pledged to build on this “first step” by working closely with hospital trusts over the next six months “to help them save even more money that can be reinvested in patient care.”
The consultation will form the basis of a broader NHS procurement strategy due for publication later in the year and comes less than a year after the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised the NHS for failing to achieve value for money in the procurement of “high value equipment” and for not having realised the potential savings that could be made from bulk buying.
Given that these proposals and the broader procurement strategy will have an impact on many current and potential suppliers; it is in the interests of companies to proactively seek to influence the outcome rather than simply letting decisions be made that may affect their business. As this week has shown, with change of hearts over taxes on pasties and caravans, the Government is capable of listening to representations when made effectively, and even changing their minds.
Companies which have points to make about how the procurement system could be revised in a way which would benefit the NHS as well as protecting commercial interests need to seek support from those can help influence the outcome, including MPs, Peers, the media. The earlier they make their views known, the more chance there is that they will be taken into account.