Exclusive! NHS Procurement Leaders Criticise Department of Health Strategy

HCSA conveys its concerns to the Department of Health’s Commercial Director regarding the planned Future Operating Model for NHS Procurement in England

That is the heading on the press release issued today by the Health Care Supplies Association, the professional body representing procurement and supply professionals within the NHS.  The dramatic press release fairly directly criticises the Department of Health Commercial function and Pat Mills, its head.

The point of contention is the new Future Operating Model for procurement across the NHS. The HCSA are unhappy about the work being driven from the centre in areas such as the replacement for the NHS Supply Chain. From the press release;

“There is a view that what is being proposed through the current proposed design of the FOM, (comprising 11 category towers, a new 200+ person Intelligent Client Coordinator etc.), is not widely understood by the NHS Procurement community and certainly not in sufficient depth”.

Certainly that tower structure seemed fairly unintelligible to us. The HCSA are also clearly upset about the lack of involvement from procurement people in the wider system.

“The HCSA must be engaged in the design of the operating model, and given access to key information, including the strategic options analysis and shortlisting process which has led to the current, proposed model.

The HCSA requests that it is engaged before any Outline Business Cases are taken forward for approval and any subsequent, related OJEU(s) are published”.

The new commercial arrangements with NHS Supply Chain are working well, according to the HCSA, and the Future Operating Model may put these in jeopardy. HCSA want those arrangements extended –

“In view of the above, there is an immediate need to urgently evaluate the benefits of a further extension to the NHS Supply Chain contract in order to maintain the momentum of these savings initiatives, at a time when savings are critical to NHS stakeholders.

An extension will enable the NHS to recalibrate its relationship with key supply markets through NHS Supply Chain as a national service provider, to rationalise and standardise a national NHS product range, and obtain and maintain true market prices”.

And it sounds like there is some frustration in the HCSA about lack of responsiveness from the DH.

“Following concerns expressed by HCSA members, HCSA Chairman Helen Lisle wrote to Pat Mills, DH Commercial Director, on 20 July 2016 regarding the DH planned implementation of the proposed NHS Procurement Future Operating Model (FOM). A response is awaited”.

Maybe Mills is on a beach somewhere? But not replying for two weeks is asking for trouble really. Personally, I wouldn’t mess with Helen Lisle (that’s a compliment) and if it came down to a power struggle between HCSA and the DH Commercial team, it would be interesting to see which side key players such as Lord Carter and Simon Stephens might support. I have my suspicions. Anyway, do read the whole press release and we will have more on this next week no doubt.

(Late news; Our sources tell us that Pat Mills was indeed away from the office last week so only saw the letter in the last couple of days - which explains the lack of response).

Voices (8)

  1. Sam Unkim:

    Pleading to stay with DHL/SupplyChain sounds like classic “Stockholm syndrome” to me.
    Logistics function aside, since that at least, hasn’t got any worse under their tenure.

  2. Simon Walsh:

    Pat Mills has now responded and kindly invited HCSA Officers to meet with him to discuss the issues raised.

  3. HCSA Member:

    As an HCSA member I do find it perplexing that the HCSA has not consulted or polled its members before issuing this letter to the Department of Health. This brings into question whether it is a representative view of HCSA members.

    Maybe this has more to do with the HCSA Board wanting some inside information before bidding for one of the categories themselves which would then call into question the fairness of any procurement process.

    1. Simon Walsh:

      Dear member,
      HCSA Executive and/or your Regional Co-ordinator would be very happy to discuss your concerns directly.
      Alternatively please feel free to contact me.
      I appreciate your feedback
      simon.walsh@cmft.nhs.uk

  4. Final Furlong:

    We are hopeful that the Finance Director General (David Williams) will take action and conduct an independent review of the Procurement Transformation Programme. And fast.

    Even better, that he brings the PTP to an immediate, grinding halt, and extends the NHS Supply Chain contract (understandably, with caveats) to enable the NHS procurement leaders to shape and deliver a future, world class operating model built on collaborative not competitive principles. A model that they will embrace and embed because they will own it.

    The PTP team is designing a car crash – a multiple pile up – and all trusts and suppliers (and potential bidders) will be trapped in its wreckage for years to come. And, get this, everyone can see it coming, apart from the PTP team.

    Now, it reached my ears this morning that one of the 11 category towers has already been awarded – months ahead of schedule. Wow! Did the PTP team adopt the new, Government ‘lean’ procurement process? Was this as a result of advanced market testing and following a full assessment of all potential supplier’s capabilities (people, processes, systems) and their track record in the NHS or similar healthcare markets? Were they the only player in the market and therefore, uniquely positioned to provide the requirements of that specific tower? Did they propose extraordinary ROI based on a demonstrable track record of achievements in the same category in a similar market? Were they the lowest price? (Was it free?!)

    I am just being facetious, of course! Because we hear that one of the towers (office products and services?) has been awarded to that world beating healthcare procurement ‘GPO’ and world class exemplar of productivity and efficiency – the Crown Commercial Service. (For the avoidance of doubt, that would be the same Crown Commercial Service, aka the Cabinet Office, that is designing, supporting and delivering the PTP. So, no conflict of interest there then.) Seriously? Who’s making this up? in fact, you couldn’t make it up!

    As a plea to David Williams, the NHS (and HCSA) would all be grateful for his intervention – it’s one thing to have a few ‘colleagues’ from the DH and Cabinet Office bending your ear about ‘a little noise from the NHS’ when there are hundreds of procurement (and finance) practitioners in the NHS screaming at you that this is so fundamentally flawed.

    David came from the MOD but he doesn’t need a sniper with silver bullet for this. He needs to put a single ‘dumb-dumb’ bullet in the chamber, and fire it broadly at the PTP to put it out of its misery. He couldn’t miss. Preferably, he needs to do this before the DH is hoisted by its own petard.

  5. Andy Coley:

    It surely seems ill conceived that the HCSA, with its hundreds of public service procurement leaders in its ranks; its record of support to the profession and on innovation, that they have not been approached. With its members collective years..decades of public procurement service and procurement experience not to be consulted for their advice is surely ill-advised and foolhardy.

  6. Simon Walsh:

    The letter should have by now received an simple acknowledgement out of courtesy to the HCSA Chairman and the Association. The HCSA has offered opportunities for national initiatives to be debated and has willingly offered our conference platforms.
    The message in the letter demands consideration and a response.
    Simon Walsh
    Immediate Past Chairman- HCSA

    1. Eugene Cooke:

      I totally agree with Simon’s sentiments (outlined) and just to add…surely, it is a ‘must’ to meet, discuss and shape the ‘plan’ with those who will ultimately be doing the job of implementation.

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