NHS Procurement Jobs Up for Grabs – Good News & Some Potential Issues

There are four regional jobs going in the NHS which caught our interest the other day. “The purpose of the Regional Head of Procurement role is to lead work on procurement efficiency across the NHS through the development of relevant metrics, benchmarks, good practice and consolidation across the service”.  There will be four of these, covering North/South/Midlands & East/London – the base can be  “flexible with travel to London”. The salary is £80-100K.

Here is more from the job description.

The post holder is responsible for overseeing delivery of recommendation 5 from the Carter Review relating to procurement within one of the four NHS Improvement Regions. This includes advising and supporting trusts and STPs to develop plans to deliver the Carter report recommendations, and working with the Department of Health and other partners to do so. The post holder will ensure the Department of Health’s Future Operating Model for NHS procurement is delivered and set up for success. In doing this it is expected that all trusts non-pay spend per Weighted Activity Unit (WAU) will have been reduced by 10% by 2018”.

The roles sit in NHS Improvement rather than the Department of Health (a sign of where the operational power resides now in the NHS) and while it is DH who are letting the complicated “tower” contracts to form the new operating model and replace the old NHS Supply Chain contract, it is NHSI who are in the lead on operational implementation.

The jobs are positioned at Grade 9, which is a similar level to most of the top heads of function in major Trusts. So one question will be whether the roles attract the right calibre of people – and they look to me like jobs for people who know their way around the sector already, to be honest.

But the Healthcare Supply Association (HCSA), which represents procurement professionals and is an increasingly powerful voice in the sector welcomed the move, and the chance to see better co-ordination between DH, NHSI and other elements of the health landscape.  “HCSA members are strongly encouraged to apply for new roles, given the breadth and depth of talent we have within NHS procurement”, said Simon Walsh, ex Chair and now HCSA communications lead.

Of course, there are some potential issues here as well. Implementing the Carter report efficiency recommendations and indeed the “Knott report” on procurement strategy has proved a slow process, and in a sense the recognition that these roles are needed suggests some Trusts at least have struggled to make real improvements in procurement, while others have moved ahead.

We’re also worried somewhat by the reference to the 10% reduction in the WAU in the job description above. (One WAU is the equivalent of an elective inpatient admission, based on the cost of providing that treatment, circa £3,500, by the way).  Firstly, a 10% target “punishes” the Trusts that have already made major value improvements in procurement, as opposed to those who have more low hanging fruit still available.

But also, as we’ve said before, this is a pretty blunt measure. Stop feeding patients or cleaning the wards, and the “non-pay spend per WAU” will reduce significantly. I’m afraid it plays to the old fashioned view of procurement as a cost reduction function rather than focusing on value improvement or health outcomes. If we spend a bit more on food so patients can go home sooner and stay healthy for longer, wouldn’t we do that, even if the WAU went up a little?

That aside, the new regional directors will need to position themselves as being helpful and useful to Trust procurement leaders, and make sure they are not seen as form-fillers or “auditors” to be avoided by the front-line leaders. But with these provisos, there is much that can be done to spread best practice around the network, so we would hope that the roles prove useful and valuable.

Voices (8)

  1. HCSA Member:

    Peter is right in suggesting if better food hastens shorter stay then this is of course worth doing. Interestingly as length of stay shortens so the cost per WAU should drop so spending more per unit can mean lower cost overall and better value.

    Bill Atthetill, notes that one person has done much of the visible NHS engagement of late, seeking to promote ideas, share best practice, encourage collaboration, grow adoption of the amazing PPIB tool (which is still just a shadow of what is possible) and most important of all to recognise the vital role of the local/near local operation, a service misunderstood and under valued for many years.

    These roles are about building to a team of people who can support trusts to improve and achieve more. NHSI can then help accelerate the great work trusts have been doing in near silence and unseen for several years.

    The team will, as Mark L notes, need to hit the ground running, no time to learn the landscape here. Hopefully PowerPoint (30 years old this year) will be augmented with practical advice, mentoring, coaching and connecting.

    1. Final Furlong:

      I recall the words of the great Richard Douglas at his retirement bash (as his final piece of advice to the incoming David Williams): “You will never achieve anything without close working with the NHS”. Peter Coates, in a similar vein, was in regularly touch with ‘trusted advisers’ in the NHS procurement leadership to ensure his own interventions, wherever possible, aligned to local needs while meeting policy demands (Ministers’ wishes).
      My fear is that we’re firmly in the land of the blind, from which many of the ‘one-eyed men’ have now departed, having been poked in the eye by the myopic few.

  2. Dan:

    Yet again, senior NHS Procurement jobs list an essential criteria as NHS procurement experience.

    If the NHS keeps recruiting, or promoting from within where does the fresh pair of eyes come from?

    Clearly this strategy has not worked so far!

    1. Mark Lainchbury:

      Hi Dan

      We are at the “end of the beginning” of a drastic shift in the way we work.
      Which this role is expected to “advise and support”.

      New processes & systems are rolling out country wide (Peppol, Barcoding, National Catalogue, PPIB,Patient Level Costing, VirtualStock etc.) and everyone is on-board with the need to change after years lost in the post-PASA wasteland.

      A fresh pair of eyes right now, would take months to get up to speed, would have no credibility & would be a disaster IMHO

      All opinions my own as usual of course

  3. Sam Unkim:

    So you suspect that there is a lack of engagement in the NHS procurement community ?

    Thats not my experience.
    Of course its getting increasingly difficult, to keep up with NHSI’s latest newspeak so I suppose another layer of powerpoint warriors, will help with that.

    1. Bill Atthetill:

      This is what I hear. If engagement equals “meaningful consultation and buy-in”.

      In recent months, there has been a significant level of engagement from NHSI, and all of it seemingly delivered by just one person.

      In the last few years, a significant lack of engagement from the DoH, seemingly from an army of people, all working in their own silos.

      But I am sure you must feel engaged.

  4. Sam Unkim:

    Of course you could of gone with the headline…..
    “NHS responds to crisis in usual manner,, by splurging half million ££s, on recruiting more super-senior managers”.

    1. Final Furlong:

      Looks like a positive step to me. And far better than the very abstract category towers programme. These individuals will, at least, be actively engaging the NHS procurement community in accelerating progress across the system.

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