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Breaking down the barriers to NHS Procurement


Here are some stats on NHS procurement that you may find interesting: the NHS supply chain spend £9 billion per year on goods and services, £5.7 billion of which is spent on goods. At present, less than 5% of this amount is supplied by SME’s, despite to huge potential and invaluable goods and services that our small business community has to offer. The NHS now have a target to increase this figure to 33%, creating fantastic opportunities for our members and small businesses across the UK to get their foot in the door!

Currently, there are approximately 320,000 items in the NHS catalogue, which they will try to reduce down to 10,000 to make life easier for small businesses to supply. How can they do this I hear you ask? 

Well, there are several items in the current catalogue that can be reduced down and standardised across the board, so there is only a need for one catalogue item. To put this into perspective, for example, currently the catalogue carries 964 different types of theatre gowns including different designs, colours, etc - Not really necessary when, in their own opinion, 80 variations would suffice. So that’s 884 items that can be removed from the catalogue in the blink of an eye!

The new purchasing process that the NHS will shortly be introducing is to be made up of ‘11 Towers’ of which 3 Towers (non-clinical) will suit SME’s. Following nearly a full year of meetings, suggestions, and discussions, a new purchasing process was agreed and rolled out to FSB members in Farnham, Surrey. As part of this roll out, we put out a region-wide invitation to FSB members to attend a unique presentation afternoon, allowing them the opportunity to ‘pitch’ their business, goods, and services, directly to members of the NHS Senior Procurement Team.

The hugely successful event saw approximately 40 attendees of FSB members and their staff, invited by FSB Development Managers Alison Parmar (Kent & Medway), Neil Eames (Wessex), James Anderson (Thames Valley) and Ray Abrahams (Surrey), overseen by David Hale (FSB Senior Public Affairs Advisor). These members provided what in essence was ‘a pitch’ to supply goods to the NHS to qualify their attendance, and the transformed NHS procurement process was unveiled by the NHS Senior Procurement Team.

Members in attendance were offered the NHS Team’s personal email addresses for contact and even invited to the NHS offices in Elephant & Castle to discuss supply on a one-to-one basis. The meeting will be followed up with an NHS procurement information pack for small businesses, which will potentially be more widely available soon.

Members were extremely grateful for the opportunities this event has the potential to create for their businesses. Take a look at some of the highlight quotes we received on the back of the event:

“Thank you for a very good event. I am sure that I don’t speak alone when I say that I found this event to be very interesting and informative. I look forward to being a possible future NHS supplier.”

“A brief note to say thanks to the FSB for making NHS procurement available to SME’s. A fascinating afternoon.”

In the words of the Head of NHS Procurement, “NHS is open for procurement with small businesses, let’s get doing!”