Health Service Focus

18.02.20

NHS LPP: NHS procurement a different way

Managing Director of the NHS London Procurement Partnership (NHS LPP), Michael Pace, spoke with NHE’s Matt Roberts about the organisation’s recent transformation.

The NHS London Procurement Partnership (NHS LPP) is a non-profit membership organisation within the wider NHS which looks to provide business expertise to support hospitals, ambulance services and other healthcare providers to spend government-allocated funds effectively and efficiently

Acting as the trusted business advisor to NHS organisations across London, they have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on maximising the buying and spending power of the NHS trusts and bodies they support.

Last year, the NHS LPP underwent a huge transformation as they looked to move away from the traditional work of an NHS procurement hub, simply delivering to frameworks, to offering a complete business service. They now represent more of a strategic partner to their member organisations rather than a transaction one.

In order to better understand this transition, and outline the position of the NHS LPP moving forwards, Managing Director Michael Pace took the time to speak with Matt Roberts from National Health Executive.

Could you outline the new role and approach of the NHS LPP after this quite significant organisational change?

“First of all, Supply Chain Coordination Limited (SCCL) implemented the category towers. We had some contracts around medical and surgical areas which we had to handed over to SCCL. That left us with four distinct category teams within the LPP, which are Clinical Digital Solutions, Estates, Facilities and Professional Services and Medicines Optimisation and Pharmacy Procurement and Workforce.

“I joined fifteen months ago and realised there was the drive towards more category management, rather than just frameworks and we set about changing our style and moving away from them.

“What we’ve started to do is move into more of that trusted advisor role. We still have frameworks, and are not going to be able to move away from them in the short term because of the way they’re being used, but we want to become a solution provider.

“Rather than just providing a framework and saying here’s a compliant route to market, we want to ask: Is this the right thing for your trust?

“We’re in a really unique position because we’re owned by our members. People host us but they host us on behalf of the members. That puts us in a really neutral position. We have contacts in the centre and can link into national policy, but then try and fit that into practical solutions for our members and work with them. We’ve become an intermediary across the four categories we’re strong in.

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“A big part of what we changed was that we invested heavily with the four teams and made sure we got the right category experts in there. They’re not generalists. If you want to talk to somebody in the digital team, they’ll be able to talk to you in depth about solutions across the digital landscape.”

“I think what really helps us to do is look at the procurement teams within the trusts. They do have some specialists but mostly they’re generalists in procurement, making sure that trusts stick to the rules and do the right things. Our teams come in and support them to have the detailed conversations.”

Data and business intelligence are core aspects of the NHS LPP’s ability to support its members. How has the organisation managed to position itself in such a way to allow this?

“For a long time, we’ve collected the AP and PO data from trusts and done a lot of work with that, so we’ve always had that data to share back with members and to enrich with information [we receive] back from suppliers as well.

“It’s a complete 360 view and I think in this new world we’re in, where we’re talking about collaboration, this data is really starting to take on a life of its own. We’re able to enrich the data by looking trust to trust, across SCPs and more widely across London.

“That’s really helping us pinpoint and look at data in a different way, going back to the trusts or SCPs and saying across London you’re paying this for this service and another part of London is paying this for this service. Why is there a cost difference?

“This has always been difficult in the past, especially around services, but it now allows us to go back and start looking at specifications so we can see that maybe you’re paying more because you’ve got extra services and asking do you really need these services as part of the system doesn’t have them. Or, should we be telling other parts of the system you need to be putting more costs in because you should be having these extra services.

READ MORE: Transforming the NHS procurement landscape

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“That’s really started to develop over the last couple of months. We’re still in the very early stages of that but that has really given us some exciting insight into things.”

You also offer members not just frameworks but a consultancy service too. Could you explain a little more about that?

“As a little bit of history, a lot of our members were asking for extra support and if we had the capacity, we would give the support, but if we didn’t then we didn’t.

“So, [to solve the problem], we invested in a very small team to see if we could take this consultancy stuff forward.

“We had a lot of requests for it, but I wasn’t sure if people would want to pay for it because it would still all be within the NHS. We’ve been surprised by the uptake and how quickly things have happened and some of the projects we’ve started to get involved in.

“Just recently, Whipps Cross Hospital received some of the new money which went into the NHS for estates and they were going down the traditional route of getting some external consultants in until the team had a conversation with them. We do a lot of work with the main trust there, and [after that conversation] they moved away from the consultants and asked us to support them on the phase 1 of that programme.

“I think it is really important we learn these lessons as the NHS. Hopefully we can share that and not just look to be consultancy and keep selling it from one trust to the next. We’re looking at it in a very different model. Probably doing myself out of long-term business there but it’s the right thing for the NHS in how we bring it forward.”

Finally, what advice would you give to others within NHS procurement to help move the healthcare service move forwards in the new decade?

“I think the biggest lesson is about collaboration and how you make collaboration work. It’s not easy to just say we do this, you do that and we’ll come together. It’s really about, to begin with, finding the coalitions which are willing and then building up on that and showing real results coming from that collaboration.

“If you just collaborate for the sake of collaborating, it’s going to die really quickly.”

“Collaboration is not necessarily with your neighbour, but looking for likeminded people and how you can move the NHS forward.”

 
This article first featured in the Jan/Feb 2020 edition of NHE

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