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Procurement reform needed for good health

08 November 2012

A group of senior figures from the NHS, private and third sector have produced a major new report calling on the Secretary of State to reform the procurement system and encourage increased joint working between the public and private sector.

Chaired by Sir William Wells, former chairman of the NHS Appointments Commission and Commercial Advisory Board to the Department of Health, the panel have consulted the NHS and private sectors through a series of regional discussion events and a national survey to report on the why, what and how of strategic partnerships.

The national and economic situation means that the NHS is facing a significant reduction in funds. To survive these difficulties the NHS must change its patterns of care and culture. The report: “Partnerships for Healthy Outcomes: Making partnerships work between the public, private and third sectors” will be distributed to all NHS Chief Executives, key private sector organisations, think tanks and charities, to encourage all parties to embrace the concept of partnership and make sure all available skills and resources are utilised to modernise the NHS before it is too late.

The report, funded and published by Sodexo, lays out the theory and thinking about partnerships, including a clear, working definition, a practical step-by-step guide to forming successful partnerships and survey findings from 250 senior leaders from the NHS and private sector.

Key findings and recommendations from the report include:

? There are not enough partnerships between the NHS and external parties; most relationships are transactional. Yet, 51% of the NHS respondents expect to have a greater number of external contracts in the next 12 months.
? The Secretary of State must decide who is responsible nationally for promoting partnership working. Locally, leadership at all levels is essential to make partnerships successful.
? There is a lack of trust and knowledge about how each sector works: 37% of private sector respondents think that the NHS CEO takes the final decision on high value contracts, only 6% of NHS respondents think the NHS CEO takes these decisions.
? The current procurement system is unhelpful, bordering on obstructive and in need of reform. Competitive dialogue and soft market testing should be integral to the process.
? Contracts must be outcome focused, transparent and open to scrutiny. 54% of NHS feels there are enough outcome-based specifications in contracts, 66% of the private sector feel there are not enough outcome-based specifications in contracts.
? The private sector must adapt to the NHS system by understanding the NHS agenda, history and culture and modify ways of working to accommodate this.
The report will be a living document subject to annual review, reporting on progress and supplementing the existing guidance. In the coming months there will be a series of regional events with reference panel members, focusing on the key recommendations and guidance.

Sir William Wells, Chair of the Reference Panel, said: “All procurement processes should have outcomes for patients as their chief aim. Currently they do not help the patients, the NHS or any other sector. It is up to the NHS and the private and voluntary sectors to take ownership of this challenge and make it work for all parties.

“Pooled skills and ideas will improve patient outcomes. I believe the report makes a convincing case for partnerships and shared outcomes, not transactional contracts.”

Simon Scrivens, managing director, Sodexo Healthcare, said: “Ultimately, patient outcomes will be improved if the NHS and the private sector can work together in partnership. Sodexo is committed to changing these relationships and we will use this report as a blueprint for the way we do business in the future.”

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