NHS Procurement Report – Clinical procurement review partnerships

This week we’ll have two more pieces about the key recommendations in the new National Health Service procurement report issued recently “Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care: a Procurement Development Programme for the NHS”.  (We published a number of previous posts last week on the topic  if you feel inclined to check them out).

The third key initiative laid out in the report is “Improving outcomes at reduced cost through clinical procurement review partnerships”

The report takes medical devices as an example of the issues. Clinicians make decisions with the best intent but often without knowledge of costs. So both budget holders and clinicians need the information to make the best choices. Market inefficiency also leads to high costs for suppliers  - “in the case of orthopaedic hip and knee joints it is estimated that as much as 40 per cent of the price of joints is associated with ‘costs to serve’ i.e. consignment stock, instrumentation and sales support staff. These costs are double that found in other sectors...”

So work is already going on to gather data, and a steering group has been established  involving clinicians, procurement and other stakeholders. “We are currently planning to implement the approach in one or two regions, to show what can be achieved by clinically-led procurement at scale. We anticipate 10-15 per cent efficiency savings whilst improving health outcomes. The North West region will lead the way through its North West Procurement Development Network, building on the work they have already done as part of their Advancing Quality Programme”.

This is effectively a pilot or template that can then be extended across other high-value medical technology areas.  Multi-disciplinary Clinical Procurement Review Partnerships will be set up, and  charged with getting to grips with different markets, weighing up costs and benefits, looking to rationalise where appropriate and spreading best practice.

They will be, “aligned to the Centre of Procurement Development and Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) to ensure they access world-class category management practices and are aligned to local decision-making and local accountability”.

I don’t have too much to add really to this initiative – it is clearly sensible, and an approach involving stakeholders is essential to success in this type of spend category. Procurement folk can’t sit in a darkened room and decide which artificial hip joints (for instance) are going to be used across the NHS.  More than ever though, the questions in terms of this initiative are around speed of delivery, resources, and commitment. I’m sure we’ve seen initiatives like this in the past – but we’re still talking about clinical preference, lack of standardisation and such issues, as we have for many years.

Let’s hope this time there is the willpower and the resource to drive success. It’s all really good stuff – now everyone involved needs to get on with it and make it happen!

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