Health Services Procurement – our Hot Topic for November

How can it be November already? It's still summer with temperatures of around 20C / 70F in the south of England!

Anyway, our "hot" topic for this month, is Procurement in the Health Service. We are going to focus pretty heavily on the UK situation, because frankly there is more than enough interesting stuff to cover here to keep us going through November and probably forever!

We chose that in part because I'm speaking on November 18th at the HCSA (Healthcare Supplies Association) conference, in Manchester, looking at progress in health procurement over the past year, and how that relates to the wider context of changes in the health system and in procurement more widely. We commented briefly on the recent health Five Year Forward View (FYFV) here, so expect to see that being mentioned.

I'm also participating in a workshop on day two at HCSA, with my focus being on procurement moving from price to cost to value (and beyond) as our central motivator. There's a good line up of speakers at the event, and I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Lord Carter, appointed chair of the NHS Procurement and Efficiency Board a while back, to find out what he has been up to.

The health sector faces huge challenges and many of them have some procurement or commercial angle. We tend to think about procurement in hospitals as being the core of NHS procurement, and it is obviously vitally important. But don't forget that GPs (general practitioners or family doctors as they used to be called) are in the main private firms themselves. So many of the problems the system is experiencing with GPs (cost, capacity, opening hours) can be traced back to bad contracting decisions some years back. And if different behaviours are required from GPs in the new world of the NHS, as described in the FYFV, someone will have to structure new contracts and handle some tricky negotiations, we suspect.

Another huge set of commercial issues sit around the whole landscape of commissioning services from hospitals and other providers. Clinical Commissioning Groups are still bedding down, yet the FYFV sees them taking on even more responsibility. There are still some fundamental issues around competition, the use of the private sector and conflicts of interest to be resolved here.

Back to more conventional procurement, and one bright spot is how technology in areas such as spend analytics and sourcing is contributing to performance improvement. Then we also have issues around pharmaceutical procurement, another specialist category for health. And that is not just the huge and sensitive pricing negotiations with the drug firms to consider. There are some deep structural challenges; such as encouraging the pipeline for drugs that will benefit patients and society the most, rather than those that will simply make the most profit for the manufacturer.

So more than enough to write about, as you can see, and we will try and cover a range of these issues. We'd also be delighted to get any contributions to the debate, especially from practitioners. You can even be anonymous if you want ...


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