NHS Procurement Report – Improving leadership and capability

This is the last post – for now at least – looking at the recommendations in the new National Health Service procurement report issued last week, “Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care: a Procurement Development Programme for the NHS”.

The fourth key initiative described in the report is “Improve leadership and capability” – of all the initiatives,  this is the one we would I suspect all unhesitatingly support. It has potential to deliver the most probably of all the ideas in the long term, and yet it is also not as easy to achieve as it might sound!

There’s a lot of content in this section, and it sounds encouraging, with that caveat around implementation and what we might call “stickiness” – these initiatives do take some time and require tenacity to get results.

Under the “leadership” heading the report covers:

  • Governance for the NHS Procurement Development Programme
  • Developing a package of support for clinical leaders to drive greater procurement awareness
  • Work with CIPS and the HCSA to engage NHS procurement professionals
  • Build Procurement Development Networks at regional or Trust group level
  • Provide “a package of support for NEDs and Finance Directors to equip them with the tools to champion procurement and hold the board to account.
  • Encourage Trusts to have a Board member accountable for procurement and a NED to sponsor the function

Then we get onto capability. After researching leading public and private organisations,

“DH will create a new Centre of Procurement Development (CPD) to support the procurement development programme and ensure best practice is embedded throughout the NHS. The CPD will incorporate an Academy of Procurement Excellence (APEX), which will enable professional development and leadership. The CPD will act as a one-stop shop for all NHS procurement professionals, housing a range of effective and much needed capability accelerators.

The CPD will be the independent home for learning, networking and knowledge management including a national source of all key documents, templates, case studies and best practices, designed to improve consistency in procurement across the NHS. It will house diagnostics, analytics and performance systems to support benchmarking and capability assessment”.

It sounds good, doesn’t it? The CPD will also look at the current state of the NHS procurement workforce to be “clear about optimum numbers”. That might look like a bit of a threat, but I suspect the answer will be “not enough procurement people” rather than “too many”.  The CPD and the Development Networks will then help to diagnose existing capability and create improvement plans.

So how big is this CPD going to be? Our understanding is we’re talking about perhaps a dozen management level people, probably headed by an SCS2 type person and with multiple SCS1s in the team. It all sounds promising, and if it is a success, it could  be more important and far-reaching than the Cabinet Office approach to central government procurement improvement, I’d suggest.

However, the CPD will need to prove fairly quickly that it really is adding value at operational level. I was involved a few years back in the development of a national police sector centre of excellence. It didn’t last. Once the initial 2-year central funding ran out, individual police forces weren’t prepared to stump up the cash to support it, unfortunately.  That stands as a warning for the health CPD. It will need to take the Trusts with it, and will need to demonstrate directly and fairly quickly how it is helping them get better value from their procurement expenditure.

We may come back to certain elements of the report again, but that’s it for now – we’ll follow the implementation with great interest!

Voices (3)

  1. Sam.Unkim:

    As an NHS employee I hate to say this but !

    It’s now too late in the day, to set anything like this up, under the aegis of Dept. of Health.

    The whole scheme has to be placed under the GPS. They are the only organisation (since we lost PASA,) which can develop this work from scratch.

    Anything else risks this becoming yet another consultant feeding frenzy and we (employees & tax payers) deserve better than that.

    1. Bill Atthetill:

      Sam, please don’t be so disillusioned or daft!

      Disillusioned – because this is a massive centre-led investment in a range of much needed capabilities and, unless I read a completely different strategy, the ‘NHS CPD’ (for example) will be built for, and based in, the NHS, and not in the DH. And the programme will be delivered with the full engagement of the NHS – not done to it. Also, I’ve been informed by a reliable source that the strategy was written by procurement practitioners who understand, and have worked in, the NHS – without any of the usual consultants. Perhaps that’s why it was so honest – and completely absent of any consulting BS.

      Daft – because you say that it can only be done by GPS which makes me think that your trust is located on a distant off-shore island where news doesn’t travel that far or fast. (I’m being facetious, of course). Were you aware of the fact that Cabinet Office have become heavily reliant upon EY, PWC, Proxima etc etc to deliver their commercial reform programme, especially in establishing the proposed, new Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and GPS? Don’t you think that it’s ironic that the new CCS (designed with the help of Proxima) – being implemented by these consultants EY, PWC etc – incorporates a new ‘Complex Transactions Team’, the prime purpose of which is to deliver a capability that will reduce government’s reliance upon external consultants!! You are what you eat. And this is a ‘feeding frenzy’ if ever there was one….

      1. Sam.Unkim:

        Disillusioned Moi ?

        Precious little in the report that I wasn’t seeing several years ago here …..

        http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100110130808/http://pasa.nhs.uk/PASAWeb/NHSprocurement/AboutNHSPASA/LandingPage.htm#remit

        So let’s set up an new PASA and should it fail (when spend runs out of control and targets are not achieved) close it down again in three years to give the illusion of progress.

        I also worry that Dr Dan Poulter is going to use the “stick” of flat budgeting hospital Non-pay spend budgets on the back of this report, regardless of the results of its implement ion and election promises be damned.

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