Introduction and aims
Right Care, Right Here is a partnership of all the health trusts in West Birmingham and Sandwell plus the two local authorities. The partnership was established in 2000 with the objective of delivering health services closer to people’s homes. Alongside this objective the partnership has also been pursuing an agenda of learning how to maximise the impact of existing health assets on broader regeneration outcomes, such as the economy and the environment, in the knowledge that such in improvements will also deliver health improvement.
Despite a number of successes one area where the partnership has struggled to have an impact has been in utilising health sector procurement as a mechanism for supporting the local economy. As a consequence Localise West Midlands was invited to support a local procurement initiative specifically aimed Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Hospital Trust (SWBHT).
The starting point for the work was a study by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) which established that for contracts worth over £100k only £1.72m (1.9%) was going into the Sandwell economy and £12.6m (14.3%) into the Birmingham economy.
The Hospital Trust, at the same time, made a public commitment to increase spend in the local economy by 10% (see SWBHT “Our Public Health Plan 2014-17”).
LWM’s role was to make recommendations as to how this increase could be achieved and to support their progression.
What have we learned?
- The debate with the partners involved was not about “why” spend more locally but “how”. Our worked revealed that the barriers to “how” were:-
- The hospital procurement team was hard pressed to keep up with their workload so any suggestions for improving local procurement had to be made in the knowledge that additional resources were unlikely to be made available. In other words, any solutions had to be simple to implement.
- Both authorities had “Find It In…..” teams that could support the process but the hospital and the authorities had no track record of working together and limited understanding of each other’s priorities and limitations.
- Wanting to procure more locally was not sufficient for improvements. Businesses themselves had to be in a position to win the contracts (for example, for certain products and services businesses needed to be health sector approved).
- As well as barriers our worked also found some real assets to support the process: –
- Sandwell MBC, in particular, understood the potential benefits to the point where they were willing to commit staff and resources to support both the hospital and local businesses.
- There was a senior procurement manager within the Hospital Trust who really supported the process and made a huge difference. The importance of their contribution was highlighted when LWM was invited to present on MCED to a regional network of NHS Procurement Managers and received a very negative response from her peers.
- NHS Supply Chain (who manage approximately £2bn of NHS contracts nationally) were very interested in the initiative to point where they have committed to come to Sandwell to deliver a workshop for local businesses on how to get onto the national NHS procurement framework.
- Although it won’t make any difference to the immediate project the fact that SWBHT will be building a new hospital (to open 2018) has provided an incentive for people to think differently and embrace new ideas.
What have we achieved?
- LWM was able to liaise between different partners to establish a common agenda and mutual understanding of what needed to be done.
- LWM was able to provide a simple additional resource and thereby maintain the momentum for the project by arranging meetings, keeping partners informed of progress and bringing in new partners.
- Through a process of consultation LWM was able to produce an action plan that was owned by all the partners involved.
- LWM was also invited to contribute to a new Trust Procurement Strategy that was being prepared for submission to the SWBHT Board.
- LWM was, therefore, able to develop both the action plan and procurement strategy based on the learning that had already taken place as part of the MCED programme.
- LWM was able to maintain momentum for the initiative after the key Trust manager left.
- LWM was able to test out and prove findings from the wider MCED project such as; the need to be aware of different audiences, the need to support both the supply and demand sides of local procurement, the impact of case studies (in this case the Evergreen Cooperative from Cleveland USA).
What will we do next?
- A further meeting with the Trust’s temporary Head of Procurement to look at embedding an internal Trust local procurement policy.
- A meeting with the Trust’s Head of Estates to look specifically at the local procurement of environmental improvement services.
- A follow up meeting with NHS Supply Chain to plan the January training event for local businesses.
- A research partnership with University of Birmingham to study the data from NHS Supply Chain to see if specific economic sectors can be targeted (i.e. food).
- A meeting between Sandwell MBC and the Midlands Co-operative Society to look at developing co-operative business local to the hospital to delivers services such as cleaning and gardening.