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A new commercial environment and marketplace - Sarah Eglington June 2014
One year on and the NHS is still standing, defying those who believed the restructure that took effect in April 2013 would cause it to implode. Whilst the NHS faces some tough times ahead, there are still many people, working in and with the NHS, that want to see it succeed and will not let it fail. They strive every day to make a difference and it is their dedication and hard work, largely unrecognised, that provides the strong foundation on which the NHS is built. It is for these reasons that the NHS continues to prove resilient in times of change and challenge, and why after more than 60 years, the NHS is still at the heart of our healthcare system.
So where are we now? Well firstly, a new procurement strategy launched in August 2013, Better Procurement,
Better Value, Better Care: A Procurement Development Programme for the NHS, that builds on the Raising Our Game guidelines aims to improve the way that the NHS buys goods and services from suppliers and part of the new strategy is to get more NHS non-pay spend to be spent with SMEs (25%). This is great news for smaller suppliers who often feel they are at a disadvantage with, or excluded from, the current procurement model. As a result, a new commercial environment and marketplace has emerged with different people and organisations taking on new responsibilities, including those involved in making decisions (commissioners), those who hold budgets (payers) and those who can have an impact on decisions and spend (influencers). If you are a supplier to the NHS, then you need to identify who these people are and what they are specifically responsible for so that you can interact, communicate and engage with the NHS appropriately and effectively.
Priorities and areas of responsibility may vary from organisation to organisation within the NHS. Add into the mix the fact that primary care commissioning now includes key influencers from secondary care, social care and public health, and we see different customer groups begin to emerge. Change brings opportunity and is already opening up new areas of potential to explore. Simply knowing where your customers are will no longer be enough. Customer insight and intelligence is ever more important in determining what your customers do, how they like to be communicated with and how they behave. Suppliers need to better understand how the healthcare landscape is evolving and how they can help deliver value and innovation to the NHS. They need to understand the challenges the NHS faces and work collaboratively to develop a successful model for healthcare that is not just fit-for-purpose, but also fit-for-future.
So what next? Well with a general election less than 12 months away, the NHS is likely to become the ‘battle weapon of choice’ for the various political parties to use to persuade and capture voters. The electorate are passionate about the NHS, care about what happens to it and want to know what a party plans to do once it’s in office. Manifestos make promises about healthcare but they are often a vision for the future rather than a commitment for the here and now. Whatever the outcome, the strength, resilience and determination to make it work will remain the same.
<Taken from the Foreword of Binley's NHS Guide Summer_Autumn 2014 edition>
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