National procurement strategy boost as NHS hubs formalise collaboration, working together, and sharing of appropriate frameworks

The national procurement strategy has received a major boost as the four NHS procurement hubs have agreed to work to common Principles, and where practical have opened a number of frameworks to their combined membership, cutting duplication and giving trusts immediate access to a wider range of OJEU compliant frameworks.

Between them, the four hubs - NHS Commercial Solutions (‘CS’), NHS North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative (‘NOE CPC’), East of England NHS Collaborative Procurement Hub (‘EOE’) and NHS London Procurement Partnership (‘LPP’) – support more than 160 NHS organisations as members. Although the structure of each differs, they all, as LPP Managing Director Mario Varela says, “strive to seek value for money for our members, for patients, and for the tax payer through collaborative procurement. In one fell swoop, our 160 plus members now have more frameworks at their disposal, with all the opportunities for cost savings and quality improvement that that brings.”

The hubs have been exploring options for closer collaboration (under the banner ‘NHS Collaborative Procurement Partnership’) for the past 18 months. The first successful outcome of this collaborative work are two framework agreements - the  National Collaborative Framework for the supply of Nursing and Nursing Related Staff (which went live in May 2014), and the NHS Total Orthopaedic Solutions Framework Agreement (which went live on 1st January 2015). A Total Cardiology Solutions Framework Agreement is now in the pipeline and scheduled to go live in April 2015.

Having been successful in identifying and managing specific procurement opportunities, the hubs have now agreed a set of Principles which enable them to work collaboratively while remaining independent, and which establish the basis on which they will work to avoid duplication of future frameworks and share appropriate and relevant frameworks with their respective members.

Alyson Brett, NHS Commercial Solutions chief executive, comments that “we have agreed a number of Principles for our collaborative work, and in particular we are working together in selected areas where there is mutual advantage for both our member organisations and the wider NHS. The first two frameworks have demonstrated that we can identify new opportunities to cut duplication and, in addition, enhance the delivery of overall financial savings through aggregation and economies of scale.”

Initially, the Partnership is working in the following high priority strategic spend areas:

  • Agency Nursing
  • Cardiac
  • Orthopaedics
  • Estates

As individual organisations, the hubs influence between £6bn to £7.5bn of NHS non-pay spend. Keith Rowley, NOE CPC Managing Director, points out that “As you can see from our selection of priority spend areas, we are taking this opportunity to expand our collective influence over non-pay spend and hence deliver a broader service and even greater value for our members, leveraging our collective resources, skills and expertise.

“Our organisations remain independent, with our own ownership, operating models, customer base and brand identities – but our Partnership enables us, where appropriate, to deploy our individual and collective expertise and specialist knowledge to best effect for the NHS.”

In the short term, as a result of opening up framework access, hub members will see an increase in the offerings made available to them via their local collaborative. In the medium to long term, the closer working relationship between hubs facilitates aggregation and lessens duplication of effort.

David John, EOE chief executive, concludes, “As procurement organisations, competition is the life blood of what we do, but we are of the firm belief that competing between each other is wasteful and in many cases has the potential to impede the ability of the NHS to effectively manage its supply markets. It is imperative that we work together to support our members as they face the huge financial challenges which now beset the NHS. ”