Westminster Health Forum

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The future for procurement in the NHS - resilience and future health emergency preparedness, value for money and transparency, sustainability, and key lessons from COVID-19

Morning, Thursday, 15th July 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine the future of procurement in the NHS, looking at:

  • the potential impact of the Procurement Bill to replace EU procurement directives, with aims for streamlining the system, and allowing for greater freedom, transparency and value for money
  • the previous Transforming public procurement green paper, proposals on the future practices of public procurement, and how this aligns with NHS net-zero ambitions for the supply chain
  • what can be learned from the experience of commissioning and procurement during the pandemic, as well as government procurement in response to COVID-19, and its impact, including:
    • the impact of current intensified political, policy, and media scrutiny of procurement relating to the NHS
    • findings from the NAO’s investigation into how it was conducted
    • implications for the NHS, public opinion, and policy

The agenda is structured to bring out latest thinking on:

  • the delivery of NHS procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic, what has been learned, and priorities for the future
  • measures that can be taken to improve resilience and preparedness for future health emergencies
  • tackling disruption in the supply chain, and the development of the capacity for the UK’s production of PPE
  • meeting wider healthcare aims around sustainability, demand, and digital care
  • developing and implementing frameworks that achieve improved consistency, standards and transparency

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from the DHSC; the NAO; the Crown Commercial Service; DIT; the Health and Safety Executive; MHRA; and The Scottish Government; as well as parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons.

The agenda

  • Assessing the delivery of NHS procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • What has been learned, and priorities for the future of NHS procurement

    • Issues presented by procurement challenges through the pandemic
    • Improving transparency, competition and public trust
    • Regulatory flexibility, and ensuring clinical effectiveness and safety
    • Taking forward domestic production and supply resilience
    • Future options for trade and procurement
  • Ensuring preparedness for future health emergencies
  • Commissioning, procurement and the impact of proposed healthcare reforms
  • Procurement within the wider healthcare policy agenda - net-zero NHS targets, consistency in the use of digital healthcare technology, and utilising data
  • Next steps for procurement in the NHS

Key areas for discussion:

The experience of the pandemic:

  • procurement:
    • the use of urgent response powers - including the removal of competition and using direct awards, as well as assessing the effectiveness of risk mitigation in these cases
    • keeping up with developments - meeting PPE requirements as understanding of the virus developed and guidance was being updated
    • quality assurance - looking at the extent to which this was followed and maintained
    • government transparency - including concerns over ministerial involvement in contract management
    • effectiveness of controls and processes - evaluating the methods established to assess offers of support, and the use of a high priority system for offers deemed particularly credible or urgent
    • balancing protocol and urgency - as some suppliers started work before processes to confirm the contract had completed
    • meeting demand and value for money - assessing the extent to which this has been achieved in the circumstances
    • emergency procurement processes - considering:
      • the way in which the approach to emergency procurement was developed at the same time as responding to the pandemic, and how effective this approach was
      • what has been learned, and what can be improved for scaling up emergency procurement in the future
  • commissioning:
    • evaluating changes - looking at alterations to the way healthcare services were procured, with NHS England intervening and taking powers to support service provision across the NHS
    • regional priorities - managing the commissioning of services to meet local needs through the pandemic, as well as priorities for pandemic recovery, and overcoming backlogs
    • policy - considering the impact of reforms in the Health and Social Care white paper, which takes forward integrated care and place-based working

Key lessons and priorities for the future:

  • transparency - methods that can be applied to improve transparency in procurement processes, such as setting time limits for contracts to be published and for information to be made publicly available
  • regulatory flexibility - priorities for ensuring safety and clinical effectiveness through the emergency procurement response, and supporting suppliers with compliance, as well as the need for adaptability
  • removal of competition and the use of direct awards - options for change if this approach is used again
  • domestic supply, production and infrastructure - what can be learned, looking at:
    • the domestic response that resulted from international pressures, and the dependence on supply from abroad
    • the infrastructure and relationships developed from domestic production
    • what is needed for manufacturing capability in the UK going forward, as well as for innovation and skills development
  • distribution - meeting operational need and the speed of demand
  • overcoming challenges - addressing the challenges experienced on the frontline from PPE shortages, and key lessons to take forward
  • cultural considerations - the development of culturally appropriate and accessible PPE, as a new Hijab is made available, as well as clear face masks to improve communication

Options for trade and supply going forward:

  • key issues:
    • procurement in the wake of the pandemic and the resulting international disruption to supply chains, demand, and production
    • changes due to wider NHS Reforms, such as legislating on integrated care systems
  • sourcing:
    • the future for dependency on international supplies after the pandemic
    • the impact of Brexit, and opportunities presented in the Procurement Bill
  • ethical and legal issues - including addressing concerns around modern slavery in the supply chain
  • future resilience - making sure that the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic are built into resilience going forward for future pandemics, as well as priorities for:
    • updating stockpiling guidance and requirements
    • collaboration with experts from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group
    • working with the new UK Health Security Agency and the International Pandemic Preparedness Partnership to ensure the level of preparation is sufficient and in line with latest surveillance and developments in health protection

Procurement within the wider healthcare policy agenda:

  • aligning with the net-zero NHS ambitions:
    • the role of procurement in the net-zero agenda - creating efficient supply chains, and driving the strategic and cultural shifts required in procurement
    • innovation and developing greener methods - including safe, sustainable PPE, and the options for making this re-useable
    • how net-zero goals can best be embedded into future procurement systems and manufacturing
  • digital procurement:
    • consistency in the digitalisation of services and tackling variation
    • responding to accelerated demand
  • the use of data:
    • opportunities presented in enabling efficient procurement - how the pandemic has developed this, and priorities for taking it forward
    • evaluating pandemic preparedness and monitoring outcomes
    • priorities for driving improvements and identifying need at a system level

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Transforming Public Procurement - the Government’s green paper on making improvements to transparency, regulation, value for money and innovation following the UK’s exit from the EU
    • with a response from the Competition and Markets Authority detailing recommendations for how competitive markets can be harnessed
  • the Procurement Bill - to follow the green paper, and outlined in the Queen’s Speech, which will:
    • replace EU procurement directives
    • aim to create a more streamlined procurement regime to allow for greater freedom, transparency and value for money
  • Procurement Policy Note - new guidance set out by the Government on the National Procurement Policy Statement, requiring contractors in public sector organisations, including the NHS, to consider national priorities in any procurement activity, including creating jobs, climate change and supply chain resilience
  • NAO reports:
    • Investigation into government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic:
      • looking into the Government response to procurement, the powers given to bodies to procure goods during the pandemic, and how risks were managed
      • with a Government statement published in response to the report defending the transparency of procedures
    • The supply of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic - assessing:
      • the initial level of preparedness, how this was responded to, and what the consequences and challenges were for the workforce following delays and distribution
      • how PPE has been used and the budget put in place
  • Personal protective equipment strategy: stabilise and build resilience - the government strategy outlining the response and approach taken to procurement challenges for PPE, including:
    • the supply chain and domestic production
    • how it is preparing for future outbreaks of the virus
    • key considerations for transitioning to an improved procurement system following the pandemic
  • New procurement framework for online consultations and video consultations - from the NHS, which aims to include all services in one place, improving assurance, consistency, and standards
  • Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service - from NHS England, setting out the ambition for the Health Service and its wider supply chain to be net-zero by 2045, including:
    • how to approach emissions reduction in the supply chain
    • ways in which purchasing can influence this
    • a move away from single-use equipment, and developing low-carbon options
  • Integration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all - the health and care white paper, with:
    • planned reforms to address bureaucracy in arranging healthcare services in order to support integration and collaboration
    • competition processes encouraged with NHS discretion if they add value
  • Covid contracts still unpublished despite Boris Johnson's claim - the BBC reporting on the High Court ruling that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care had acted unlawfully by not publishing procurement contracts within set out timeframes, and further contracts not having been published following the ruling
  • the Greensill Inquiry - and concerns over the lobbying of senior health service officials

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons and officials from the Crown Commercial Service; the Department for International Trade; the Department of Health and Social Care; the Health and Safety Executive; the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency; the National Audit Office and The Scottish Government.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from regulators, pharmaceutical companies, representatives from the NHS, executive agencies including clinical staff, CCGs, NHS trusts and local health systems, suppliers, the procurement and supply chain sector, medical device companies, sustainability professionals, the independent and third sectors, patients groups, law firms, consultancies, and others affected by the issues discussed as well as academics and think tanks, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Leon Bardot

Audit Manager, Health Value for Money Audit, National Audit Office

Keynote Speakers

Leon Bardot

Audit Manager, Health Value for Money Audit, National Audit Office

Preeya Bailie

Director of Procurement Transformation and Commercial Delivery, NHS England and NHS Improvement

Louise Patten

Chief Executive, NHS Clinical Commissioners


Sir James Mackay

Chief Executive, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Chair, NHS Supply Chain Customer Board

Mary Mundy

Partner, Capsticks

Luella Trickett

Director, Value and Access, ABHI

Graeme Cameron

Managing Director, B Braun Avitum

Professor Albert Sanchez-Graells

Professor of Economic Law and Co-Director, Centre for Global Law and Innovation, University of Bristol

Tracy Moore

Expert GMP Inspector, MHRA

Peter Smith

Managing Director, Procurement Excellence