Reflections: HCSA 2019 PDP Winner

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The Health Care Supply Association (HCSA) Procurement Development Programme (PDP) is an annual development opportunity for procurement professionals across the NHS. Some may ask, “What can the PDP do for me?”, and as last year’s overall winner of the week long residency course, I think I am well positioned to answer. It can give your career a rocket-boost, it can provide you with a core set of skills to tackle any situation you might come across at work (or beyond), and it can even allow you to “enter the boardroom” and sit among the Trustees of the HCSA, where I’ve been proud to learn and contribute over the last 12 months. For participants and winners alike, the PDP offers a once in a lifetime springboard for junior health care procurement professionals; setting them up with the tools, the experiences, and the connections to embark on an exciting, successful, and potentially lucrative career.

As a relatively young field of professional expertise, the demand for procurement training and development is of particular importance, and from the narrower perspective of health care supply, the HCSA can be seen as being of paramount importance. As a charity tasked with the objective of improving NHS procurement effectiveness, the HCSA represents the professional interests of its thousands of members from across the home nations, and it aims to deliver resources and opportunities that can benefit the members and enhance professional credibility. Against this backdrop, the HCSA presents the PDP as a fantastic opportunity for procurement staff to engage with other health care specialists, to develop their skills, to deepen their understanding of the wider procurement landscape, to build lifelong networks and friendships, and to gain an insight into what this exciting discipline involves and where it could take you.

The PDP itself involves a full working week where delegates follow an intense and rewarding learning programme. Over five jam packed days the students cover everything from the NHS and procurement in general, the supply base and supply chain perspectives, legal and statutory frameworks, advanced negotiation, emotional intelligence, finance, and data analytics. Across the week students also participate in a myriad of assessments where the HCSA aims to identify the best performing students, with the top 3 participants being recognised via an all-expenses paid trip to the HCSA’s Winter Conference and Annual Awards ceremony. This year, winners were offered even more of an incentive with another all-expenses paid trip to Germany to visit corporate partner B. Braun’s global headquarters. Beyond this, the overall winner gets the incredible opportunity to spend a full 12 months in the boardroom as an “Honorary Trustee”.

As the first ever PDP awarded Honorary Trustee, it was this more than any of the other benefits and prizes that really pushed me to give it my all over the course of the week long course. While I know that every single attendee walks away with a wealth of new skills and experiences, those who really do have the honour of joining the charity’s Board of Trustees will gain a fascinating insight into organisational governance and the highest levels of strategic review.

When I first joined my (then) Director, HCSA Chairman Mr Mark Roscrow MBE, for my first Trustees meeting in Bristol I was not sure what to expect. I’d already received my trophy at the black-tie awards ceremony at the HCSA Winter Conference 2018, presented by B. Braun’s Head of the UK Hospital Care Division Graeme Cameron (who I personally thanked for his fascinating and candid presentation to our group of delegates at PDP), so my experience thus far hadn’t involved a great deal of work. As we travelled the short journey over from NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership’s offices in Cardiff, I used the opportunity to ask Mark more about the organisation and the role of Trustees in general. Looking back, I have learnt a lot more about the scale of the HCSA, and how the role of the Trustees is far more strategic than I had ever known or experienced before. While I asked questions about (e.g.) specific training courses, the Board of Trustees might review the allocation of resources to address “Training” as a focus area over the years to come. That in itself was an education, and when I met the rest of the Board for the first time and ran through the intensive and wide-ranging agenda, I began to understand the breadth of the role. It was truly inspiring to be a part of my first Trustees meeting, and those that followed, and it was incredible to learn more about how the Trustees interacted with the Executive, and how the organisation functioned as a whole in delivering its overall objectives.

Across the whole 12 months, I have been honoured to attend a number of Trustees meetings, and I hope I have been able to deliver a material contribution that should benefit all of the members, those starting out on their health care supply career paths, and the PDP delegates and winners who follow me. I was given a platform to offer feedback from a junior procurement professional’s viewpoint, and I do believe I have used the platform to provide a voice for those who are new to the profession, or are taking the first few steps into management. I have also tried to offer a “younger person’s” perspective on many issues, including training, conferences, national membership and representation, and future events such as the Diamond Jubilee.

Some stand out moments certainly revolve around the boardroom, working my way through financial statements, balance sheets and executive summaries, but also being able to attend the fantastic events the HCSA facilitates. I somehow found myself as Chair of the afternoon session at HCSA Summer Conference 2019, the first time I’d ever spoken in front of hundreds of people, and I got to “share the stage” with Lord Philip Hunt in welcoming the class of 2019 to this year’s PDP. Furthermore I’ve been promoted within my own organisation, I’ve been given the opportunity to study for an MSc in Strategic Procurement Management, and I’ve also been invited to return to this year’s HCSA Winter Conference following some of the work I’ve done across the year.

So when someone asks “What can the PDP do for me?”, it’s entirely up to them, but here are some of the things it’s done for me, and the first step is simply signing up.

Author: Stephen Pickard

Stephen was the 2018 PDP Winner and was an Honorary HCSA Trustee for the last 12 months.