How NHS SBS is transforming health care procurement

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At times of extreme austerity in the United Kingdom, the public sector has taken a financial battering from central government. The emergency services h...

At times of extreme austerity in the United Kingdom, the public sector has taken a financial battering from central government. The emergency services has been no different, and when funding is cut to such critical operations, the wrong kind of cost-cutting can ultimately end up endangering lives.

This is where the back offices functions then come to the fore in the healthcare sector. But innovative and forward-thinking approaches are needed in order for the National Health Service (NHS) to remain cost-effective, lean and most importantly efficient going forward. Wild and frenetic slashing of resources can have a destabilising and catastrophic effect on any organisation.

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Therefore, the rise to prominence of NHS Shared Business Services is a welcome one for many. NHS SBS as a company started as a joint venture between the Department of Health and Sopra Steria, who both own 50 percent.

As the organisation celebrates its 10th anniversary, Simon Murphy who is Director of Finance & Accounting, makes a good case for a more co-ordinated approach to procurement and related facets. He said: “Since we started in 2005 we have grown to the point where we’re now providing Finance & Accounting, procurement and employment services to the NHS market.

“We provide a platform and services for all the commissioning organisations and 30 percent of the provider organisations; so those being the hospitals, ambulance and mental health trusts for example and the commissioners are the clinical commissioning groups which to an extent replaced primary care trusts in 2013. They are dotted around the UK and buy services from those hospitals.”

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There are over 300 NHS organisations currently using the finance and accounting service, and NHS SBS collects well over £1 billion a year through its system. It collects around £14 billion of debt and 7.5 million invoices are processed annually. In short, there is no other group operating on this scale within the NHS.

Coordinated approach

Murphy states the reason procurement, finance and accounting as well as employment services were aligned together was because NHS SBS believed and still believes all are part of the same ecosystem and putting them together would give it real ability as a National Health Service, taking power back from the suppliers.

“In terms of company goals, we obviously need to remain commercially competitive to exist but really we are here to save the NHS money and to improve its services; one of the best ways to achieve this is through effective procurement.

“So for many organisations we operate full procurement, buying, catalogue management, the transactional procurement for requisitions and so on. We give them the IT system on which end users will raise those requisitions and access the catalogues, and we negotiate the contracts that go into those.”

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Through finance and accounting side, this is where the partnership with Tradeshift comes in. Via the invoices sent in and the purchase orders which then go out, NHS SBS has a huge amount of data on what is being bought by various different organisations at what price and from which suppliers.

The partnership can help NHS utilise data better and therefore make better procurement decisions based on the use of the shared business services. It has an unrivalled view on what the NHS buys and a unique ability to help them buy it more effectively. 


However, this does not mean new business opportunities naturally present themselves to NHS SBS. A business case has to be made to each of those provider organisations on an individual basis to garner their interest.

Murphy said: “That’s why we went into procurement, we felt we already had half the story. With the expertise, systems and data we’ve got we feel we have a pretty unrivalled position...CONTINUE READING 

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