NHS eProcurement strategy – finally published, major aspirations

When the NHS “procurement strategy” (Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care) was finally published last August, an eProcurement strategy was promised “in September 2013”. It was finally published last week, eight months later, with a notable lack of fanfare. Although it carries an introduction from Dan Poulter, the junior minister, there was no big announcement or PR campaign. You can read it here. NHS_eProcurement

There are several possible reasons for that lack of promotion. It may just be that the politicians don't see it as something that will generate much interest or brownie points from the voter in the street. Or it may be they were worried about its reception; or embarrassed about its lateness. (Or of course a combination of these factors). There also has not been much coverage even in the specialist press. I guess the health media probably doesn't understand procurement and supply chain technology that well, whilst the IT press perhaps see this as very parochial.

However, having read it (but not, it should be said, studied it yet in great depth), it is a significant document and lays out an interesting and challenging set of actions. What I suspect has not filtered through yet is that Trusts will be mandated to follow certain actions in it via contractual terms in their agreements with commissioners; and suppliers mandated via the standard NHS terms and conditions.

And for some Trusts, the implications are considerable. The strategy talks about the potential to save £3-5 million per hospital, which comes from some McKinsey work, so you can decide how much trust you put in that. But for some hospitals, there will be significant up front effort and cost with only the promise or hope of future savings.

The key points in the strategy include;

  • All suppliers to the NHS must adopt GS1 product coding
  • All suppliers and buyers must adopt the Peppol standard for e-invoicing (and other documentation)
  • Suppliers are required to place product data into a GS1 certified data pool
  • DH will provide a national Product Information Management system (something like a national mega-catalogue of suppliers / products?)
  • DH will procure a central GLN Registry for adoption by both NHS providers and suppliers. (I confess, I’m not totally sure I get this).
  • NHS providers (trusts etc) will submit quarterly spend data to the ’national data service’ and that body will provide benchmarking and spend analytics information back to those providers. DH will procure a solution to do that.
  • DH will procure a Portal to provide market data, supplier information and other material to support the development of category management strategies by buyers in the system.

There are some other points, but those are probably the most interesting.

Now we've talked to a small number of technology providers who know the sector and the issues well, so their thoughts are incorporated into our musings here. We’ll have more tomorrow on their – and our -  detailed views, but the overall summary might be best expressed as “directionally fine, lots of good ideas, but concerns about 'standards', and big questions on implementation”.

There was also some surprise that industry technology players were not consulted about the strategy – or at least not those I spoke to. Given the complexity of some of these issues, I wonder how much real ‘stress testing’ the strategy got from people who really understand this stuff?  So more tomorrow. But as a taster, from the ‘Implementation’ section of the report, here is just one element of the ‘key actions’ for the Department of Health.

 12) Facilitate the procurement of:

12.1         provision of certification services

12.2        provision of a GS1 certified GLN registry service

12.3        a single NHS GS1 datapool service

12.4        a single NHS Product Information Management system

12.5        provision of OpenPEPPOL compliant messaging services

12.6        provision of eProcurement implementation support services

12.7        a single national NHS Price Benchmarking service

12.8        a portal for the NHS Centre for Procurement Efficiency

So, nothing too challenging there ...!

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First Voice

  1. Sam Unkim:

    Great news for the NHS, finally get us back towards, what PASA would have achieved by now.
    But I have a nasty feeling that the big NHS ERP providers, will demand most of the available funding, to adapt their systems.. (GTN’s, D&B coding, quarterly data push to the NDS, SME flags etc ).

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