Royal Surrey NHS Trust takes supply chain initiative, gets kicked

There was an outcry earlier this week over a hospital, close to where we live, that made £300,000 profit by trading drugs (prescription, I should add, not cocaine and ecstasy...), selling on to an overseas wholesaler.

This was disgraceful, cried the Department of Health, the media etc.

But why?  This is a Foundation Trust, set up specifically to be independent, entrepreneurial and so on.  It seems to me there is an argument that they were just doing what they should have been doing; acting in the best interest of patients and actually the British taxpayer.

However, it does raise some interesting procurement and supply chain principles; for instance, would drug firms be less inclined to give the NHS a ‘good deal’ if they thought the hospitals were going to start operating in the secondary market in this manner?  That must be an issue.

This also shows of course one of the issues that the Conservatives will have to face if they do get the chance to implement their ‘co-operative’ idea that was flagged earlier this week.  As soon as a public sector organisation starts doing something a little different, daring or entrepreneurial then the media, opposition politicians and elements of the public will leap on them with cries of ‘disgraceful! That’s not what a job-centre / school/ Hospital Department should be doing!’  So watch out for fun in the brave new world of public sector co-ops....

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