Health Service Journal took time out of attending the HCSA 2021 Conference to sit down with HCSA Chief Officer Keith Rowley.
Trust leaders must become less pre-occupied with ‘price’ and think more about value and sustainability, he said.
HCSA Chief Officer added that the pandemic and global supply chain issues mean resilience and sustainability are now more important issues than price.
Procurement’s performance during the pandemic, including coping with difficulties at the centre in securing personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic, as well as other crucial products over the last year such as blood tubes, have brought greater attention to the procurement of products he claimed.
Mr Rowley said procurement teams have “never been so front and centre” in relation to trusts’ operations, and now have an opportunity to challenge finance directors that simply want to cut costs.
He told HSJ the NHS has historically focussed on price rather than value. “I’ve been in procurement in the NHS for 10 years and all we’ve done is go after [cost improvement plans].
“Have we got every bit out of that? Possibly not. In every category? Almost certainly not. But you can’t keep chasing that agenda to find effectiveness. You’ve got to go after other things.
“I think procurement professionals have [now] got the challenge of being that voice saying, ‘hang on you can’t keep pushing for cost price output… if you want sustainability, you’re going to have to pay a bit for it.
“This is what it’ll cost you and I can make sure you get value for money in what you purchased to achieve that outcome.”
Not every finance director will listen to that argument, he conceded, though he believes most will.
Speaking on the sidelines of the HCSA annual conference in Harrogate on Wednesday, Mr Rowley acknowledged there was little chance procurement teams would get more funding from finance departments to increase their capacity.
He said procurement teams will therefore have to collaborate to cope with “a perfect storm” of global supply chain disruption, the need for cost savings, and national procurement reforms.
“For me, over the next three years, if we succeed as a profession in delivering sustainability alongside dealing with supply chain resilience, alongside dealing with the global pandemic and ongoing issues, and helping the NHS recover elective care it will be because we [have] come together better across the whole of procurement.”
“If we’re fighting amongst ourselves about how we’re doing it we’re wasting time and effort,” he said.