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With the advent of the National Health Service in 1948 the new Hospital Management Committees were empowered to appoint Supplies Officers, but by 1959 fewer than half had actually made such an appointment. Others had chosen to view Supplies as a low priority and rely on untrained clerical staff to undertake their buying and stores functions.

It was in this climate that a number of then high-profile Supplies Officers decided to join together to form an association dedicated to publicising the importance of purchasing and supply in health care and to encouraging a common structure and proper career path within the function. As a result, the National Association of Hospital Supplies Officers (NAHSO) was born in 1960.

The prime purpose of the founding members was to seek a greater recognition of the Supplies contribution and to help build a more efficient and cost-effective NHS purchasing and supply service for the future. They also drew up a Constitution covering the aims of the Association, including the key objectives of promoting professional standards and training and of establishing and maintaining links with statutory bodies and kindred professional organisations. These aims and objectives remain appropriate to the present day.

The membership and role of the Association has changed as the NHS Supplies organisation has developed and grown stronger over the years. Membership has gradually expanded to include all senior and middle managers and suitably qualified staff employed in the provision of health care supplies services. At the same time the title of the Association has changed to reflect its constantly changing role and the wider sphere of membership. In 1973 the title became the Association of National Health Service Supplies Officers (ANHSSO); in 1990 the title changed to the National Association of Health Care Supplies Managers (NAHCSM); and in 1998 the title was again changed to the Health Care Supplies Association.

In addition, and in recognition of the increasing professionalism of its membership, the Association affiliated with the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply in 1998.

From the beginning the Association has relied upon a Branch structure which allows all members to have a say in the manner in which the Association is run and in the way it operates and performs. The main business of the Association is conducted by a Council consisting of elected Branch representatives plus the officers of the Association, ie Chairman, Executive Director, Treasurer, etc. The Council meets a minimum of four times a year and is responsible, on behalf of the membership, for administering the Association, for encouraging high professional standards and for organising and providing training at local and national levels.

Over the years the Council of the Association has developed and extended its sphere of influence in matters affecting the organisation and provision of health care purchasing and supply services. The Association has been invited to submit comment to National Review bodies and to express views on proposed organisational change, and in most instances this input has helped influence the final report or decision.

One of the most successful features of the Association has been its total commitment to education and training and to improving professional standards within the function. 1962 saw the first of the Association’s annual Summer Schools and in 1971 the Association organised its first Annual Conference, both of which are now firmly established events in the NHS Supplies calendar.

HCSA Procurement Development Programme 2016

The Summer School has proved a very important and popular event which over the years has helped train many of today’s most senior Supplies managers. The Annual Conference has developed in content and reputation and the high quality of debate on topical issues always attracts a capacity attendance of members and representatives of the major health care supplies companies from across the UK. In addition to these annual events, the Association sponsors Achievement Awards and organises or supports national, regional and local seminars and activities.

Over the past decade there have been many radical changes in the provision of health care purchasing and supply services, involving a continuing restructuring of organisations and a rationalisation of operating sites which in turn has resulted in many changes in personnel, roles and locations. The Association has closely monitored these changes and adapted its approach and structure in order to continue as a dynamic force committed to meeting the changing needs and locations of all its members and continues to do so as the NHS develops.