New NHS purchasing chief predicts ‘most difficult year’

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Helen Lisle appointed managing director of new procurement organisation She leads key body tasked with delivering multimillion pound savings through new purchasing model Transition year amid financial pressure on NHS will be “challenging”

The new managing director of a major NHS purchasing body believes this year will be the most difficult for procurement staff working to deliver savings for the health service.

Nick Carding

Helen Lisle, who has been appointed to lead the Collaborative Procurement Partnership, told HSJ implementing the new national procurement model, going live in October, while the NHS is under “huge financial pressure” will be extremely challenging.

Helen Lisle

The CPP has been chosen by the Department for Health and Social Care to buy three of 11 categories of products, as part of the DHSC’s drive to deliver savings of up to £600m a year by 2022.

The model replaces the NHS Supply Chain contract and aims to gradually increase Supply Chain’s market share from 40 to 80 per cent, to unlock savings for the system.

CPP, which consists of North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative, London Procurement Partnership, NHS Commercial Solutions and East of England Collaborative Procurement Hub, announced Ms Lisle’s appointment earlier this month.

Ms Lisle spent three years as Head of Procurement at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, and has worked in the NHS since 2009.

She said she “couldn’t miss out” on the opportunity to play a leading part in the emerging procurement landscape.

She said: “We have a real opportunity to make great change here, so we really need to work together and get on with making it.

“We’re all under huge financial pressure. The challenge we’ve got is to make sure that we manage to get the new model up and running to allow people to push back on that pressure and release much needed finance into clinical areas.

“The transition year is going to be a challenging year, bringing people on the journey while we appreciate that the financial pressure is getting worse at a local level.”

In autumn 2016, when she was chair of the HCSA (Health Care Supply Association), Ms Lisle criticised the DHSC for not engaging with NHS procurement staff and warned the model could further fragment the landscape.

Ms Lisle told HSJ the letter was set “by the chair of HCSA, which is a representative association for NHS procurement professionals”.

She added that the quality of communication and engagement between the DHSC, HCSA and procurement professionals had been “very good” over the last two years with “many joint meetings and clinical engagement events”.

“There is still a nervousness at trust level regarding what the top slicing model will look like and how the intelligent client coordinator will come to life.

“The nervousness in the system is understandable and we need to continue working together in an open and transparent manner to ensure that everyone can benefit from the new model,” Ms Lisle said.

On what procurement at trust level will look like, Ms Lisle said: “Initially I don’t see that trust procurement will change significantly and, if anything, the change will allow further clinical engagement and more robust contract management.

“Over the longer term there will be a change, but it won’t be just linked to the future operating model. There are currently many changes happening in the NHS landscape, including the work done at sustainability and transformation partnership level.

“Staff in trusts will be able to concentrate and focus skill on areas they can’t spend much time on currently such as contract management and relationship management.”

Ms Lisle, who was appointed last month, starts her role at the CPP in July.