Thursday 15 May 2014

The NHS eProcurement Strategy: A Practitioner & Solution Developer Opinion (Part 1/3)

By Scott Pryde

‘The problems we face are system-wide and demand system-wide solutions, delivered with urgency and vigour’

Both ‘Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care’ and the new eProcurement strategies emphasise a 7.5%-10% savings target on £22bn of NHS spend, but the reality is that the imperative for savings and efficiency at the front line of health and social care are increasing even beyond this. The system is caught between rising demand from an ageing population, unhealthy lifestyles and increasing supply chain inefficiencies. Improving quality and outcomes across the NHS and its supply chain are even greater and more challenging objectives than hitting the savings target alone.

Across society, industries and supply chains, enabling technologies are stimulating revolutionary and disruptive innovation and efficiency. So of course it is fascinating to find out to what methods and technologies the Department of Health have chosen to emphasise for NHS procurement as we enter the next cycle.

Prior to joining BravoSolution to head up the BravoHealth division, and with a background in clinical category management, GS1 software development and procurement intelligence solution design, I have been taking a keen interest in the evolution and final release of the latest Procurement and eProcurement strategies. Would they serve to help stimulate or stagnate the NHS procurement landscape?

Would they ‘raise the bar’ beyond where we have been in recent years?

Over the course of the next week I’ll be delving into the NHS eProcurement Strategy further, beginning today with Traceability, Safety & Efficiency.

Healthcare lags where in almost every other industry, traceability has been fundamental to ensuring supply chain efficiency and quality. We track our; cattle and the medications we give them, whisky batches, electronic components and food, much more closely than our patients or the care givers, drugs and devices that they encounter. If there is a problem with a batch of beans, we can recall them from our supermarket shelves within 24 hours but, when products are recalled in healthcare, nurses leaf through paper patient records to find the ‘stickies’ with a product code and then match them to a .pdf list of part numbers.

The time involved and potential for human error are significant. At the same time, the number of drug device recalls and inventories are increasing and apart from certain clinical specialties we rarely track real world drug / device outcomes systematically.

Healthcare supply chains are widely recognised as being some of the most inefficient of all industries. Fragmented demand side decision making and product offerings have lead to high inventories and increasing product recalls which in turn are raising provider costs and stifling innovation.

The eProcurement strategy sets out to establish the data standards and consolidate the foundations of NHS wide GS1 implementation and ‘ecosystem’.

This will now need to be matched by uptake and implementation by Trusts across the country. It will require chief executives, clinical leaders and finance directors to invest in and support procurement in implementing these standards and enabling their benefits to flow through to electronic patient records and patient level costing solutions.

GS1 at its core is simply a part number format. After adoption by the manufacturer and supplier in their systems and processes, the raw number needs to find its way into the patient record, theatre management, radiology, sterile service, inventory, purchase order systems to name just a few. The data then needs to be cleansed, classified and enhanced to enable any form of analysis or to begin identifying and tracking benefits.

There are a handful of experts across the country who in some cases lead the world in GS1 adoption and implementation. Graham Medwell at Leeds for example has been at this for over a decade and is one of the most knowledgeable in Healthcare internationally.

The proper adoption and application of traceability has the potential to set the scene for improved patient safety, outcomes and efficiency, but for many, this marks the start of a long journey of implementation where few trusts have the local ICT infrastructure, data management or programming skills to fully implement GS1 standards and gain the benefits.

It will be interesting to see how these challenges are overcome.

In my next post, I’ll be discussing Procurement Intelligence & Transparency - What’s in and what’s out?

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1 comment:

  1. You make a great point. Got some great information here. I think that if more people thought about it that way, theyd have a better time understanding the issue. Your view is definitely something Id like to see more of. Thanks for this blog. Its fantastic and so is what youve got to say.