Wedgbury Departs HTE – and Some Interesting “No-Bids” for Health Procurement Contracts

We mentioned last Friday that Jonathan Wedgbury has left the Midlands-based HealthTrust Europe (HTE), one of the largest collaborative procurement bodies in the UK health service.

That organisation’s genesis always confused me somewhat. It was a public sector procurement body, that somehow was “sold” to huge US private healthcare firm HCA back in 2010.  So a private firm is now letting largely framework contracts that are then used by a range of different NHS Trusts; no doubt the legal status and position was and is all kosher but it always puzzled me slightly quite how that worked!

Anyway, our perception is that HTE has done OK without exactly setting the NHS procurement world on fire. Competition is fierce from NHS Supply Chain, other collaborative bodies and increasingly, formal or informal alliances of Trusts (such as the Shelford Group) getting together and collaborating on procurement and supply chain matters.

One contact in the sector told us they felt Wedgbury “had done well to survive under the Americans for all long as he has”.  The same source suggested that the parent company was impatient for faster growth and “would either want to see much bigger numbers quickly or they may just close it down”. The parent company installed Dennis Robb, an American with an impressive track record in the industry, as COO two years ago and he is now taking over.

Another issue that may or may not be connected is progress with the Department of Health procurement of the NHS Supply Chain replacement contract(s). You may remember the “towers” strategy, with a dozen or so super-categories which will be outsourced to potentially different organisations to act as the procurement leads. This whole concept concerns us somewhat although we haven’t come up with any better idea, so we remain just n the negative side of neutral. The DH has been working to encourage interest in the opportunities, but we hear on the grapevine that some of the bidders that we might have expected to be in the picture are not pursuing the opportunity.

Coming back to recent events, we understand that includes HTE, as well as NHS Shared Business Services and most of the big consulting firms. Indeed, those firms seemed keener to win what we have heard described as the “ridiculously expensive contract” to provide buy-side support to the “intelligent client” organisation that will manage “towers” contracts (hope you are following me here). We’re told EY won that particular pot of consulting gold.

If this lack of interest from some of the big names is true, it raises some questions about the viability and attractiveness of the new approach; organisations you expect to bid saying “no” is rarely a good sign in any tender process. However, other public sector collaborative bodies are likely to bid, and a few old faces are popping up – we are told that the Oxford Academic Health Science Network is in the running, whose COO Dr Paul Durrands was heavily involved in the original controversial outsourcing to DHL. Not sure what they really know about procurement though … Watch this space anyway

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