Three ways to deliver on the Strategic framework for NHS commercial in 2024

The 2023 HCSA Winter Conference and the publication of the Strategic framework for NHS Commercial provided a timely backdrop for procurement professionals to rethink their approach for the coming year ahead.

A few months on, many of the trusts and integrated care boards (ICBs) partnered with Acacium Group are optimising their processes to align with the framework’s mission to be a ‘globally renowned commercial function in healthcare, supporting the NHS to deliver world-class patient care and outcomes.’

Cost planning for 2024 challenges

The NHS commercial sector is responsible for around £30 billion of spending every year. The new framework empowers procurement professionals to leverage the NHS’ scale and influence more effectively. When looking to futureproof services through outsourced supplies and solutions, it remains crucial to consider value creation as well as cost savings.

Organisations are increasingly under pressure to reduce spending, particularly regarding the workforce. Partnering with suppliers in a race to the bottom may save on upfront costs but can prove to be a costly and ineffective solution in the long term. This can lead to limited services that do not effectively support substantive staff, damaging engagement, impacting productivity, and increasing agency spending and attrition levels.

Conversely, proactive planning that acknowledges added value beyond the immediate price tag can transform system efficiency. When courting new suppliers, seek to understand their market knowledge and expertise, how they leverage technology and data, and what safeguarding and contingency processes they have in place. This will help you calculate a return on your investment and mitigate risks such as market volatility and geo-political impacts, which will likely continue into 2024.

Nurturing stakeholder relationships

The NHS’ Strategic framework for NHS Commercial sets out a clear strategic direction across key commercial capabilities. It seeks to ‘make it easier for suppliers to work with the NHS so they can deliver innovative solutions to meet NHS priorities for patients and staff.’ This means nurturing relationships and establishing a solid foundation on which to build.

Key stakeholders should be included in the earliest conversations, with leaders on both sides seeking to reduce cycle times by cutting out any unnecessary steps and handovers. Quicker processes foster greater agility, allowing a more rapid response to market changes and enabling you to meet your goals faster.

View the initial meeting is an opportunity to fact-find, enabling suppliers to understand the scope and parameters of your project. This conversation should establish the core objectives, primary challenges and how the project will support your wider organisational goals. Outlining expectations, contributions, and the willingness to be involved throughout the project’s life cycle ensures all parties are fully aligned, resulting in a smooth and effective implementation.

Where procurement bids demand only a written application, this can result in stagnation, with incumbent suppliers repeatedly securing contracts despite customer frustrations. A conversation-led approach complements formal applications. An ongoing dialogue empowers organisations and suppliers to pioneer new, innovative, customised solutions that could yield strong results.

Data-driven decision making

The new strategic commercial framework examines unnecessary cost, waste and missed opportunities. It also states its intention to drive additional value and leverage scale; data can play a key role in achieving both of these goals.

It’s widely acknowledged ‘what can be measured can be managed.’ A data-led approach has become increasingly important in modern business environments due to the availability of substantial amounts of data and technological advancements that facilitate its analysis. As a result, data has become invaluable in informing and guiding effective procurement decision-making.

Ultimately, employers cannot challenge the status quo without understanding the drivers of workforce behaviours. Using all the data you have at your disposal, both your own and trusted partners, secures greater visibility of workforce challenges. When acted upon, this has great latent potential to improve the sustainability of the NHS workforce.

Acacium Group’s Viewpoint programme is one example of how a supplier can support the NHS in building an engaged workforce. Viewpoint it an experience management programme that collects feedback data across all staff groups in the healthcare sector. More than 100,000 individual responses have been collected from temporary healthcare workers of all specialisms in 19 Acacium Group businesses operating in 1,000 sites across the UK.

These insights give our NHS partners greater visibility of how their workforce feels and how it compares to similar organisations. This data reveals how their culture, processes, and policies affect frontline staff, empowering them to develop a strong employee value proposition (EVP) and create a workplace culture where their teams can thrive.

Moving beyond the framework

When discussing the new Strategic framework, NHS England’s Chief Commercial Officer, Jacqui Rock, stated, “This is a framework for the commercial community, by the commercial community, and it’s our collective buy-in and adoption of the framework that will make it a success.”

As a trusted NHS partner for more than 40 years, we celebrate the framework’s aim to bring the commercial community together to deliver its ambitions and find savings for reinvestment into patient care. If you’d like to discuss opportunities to drive workforce sustainability your organisation, please reach out;