Supporting the NHS Trust with procurement capability - April 2014

The North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, known locally as North Mid, is a District General Hospital in the London Borough of Enfield. It sees more ambulances through its A&E department than any other hospital in London and has undergone some significant changes in the past 6 months. To prepare for these changes, North Mid undertook an £85 million build project to increase hospital capacity by 120 beds.

Crimson & Co joined the NHS team to support with the procurement of all the capital equipment from specification through to delivery and installation.

Room data sheets into procurement plans

Having been through a number of careful design iterations to ensure the building was clinically fit for purpose, North Mid drafted equipment lists per room. From these data sheets Crimson & Co categorised items and developed procurement plans for each area of spend. Operating in the public sector means that all procurement strategies have to align with the EU Procurement Directive to achieve value for money. Many view the rules as a barrier; however they are there to encourage open transparent competition, not to constrain innovation or hinder project objectives. Crimson successfully implemented procurement plans with North Mid across a huge range of items from hand towel dispensers to ultrasound scanners.

To avoid the tender simply being an exercise to tick the ‘public procurement rule box’, the following were key in achieving a meaningful outcome:

  • Selecting the right procurement route and not wasting time on full ITT for low value, low risk items. Using an online quotation tool and not shying away from using an ITT for big ticket items
  • Writing output based specifications to encourage suppliers to meet requirements using innovation
  • Involving clinical staff to help trial equipment and develop evaluation criteria
  • Evaluating based on whole life cost
  • Clear communication with potential suppliers

Delivery and commissioning

Crimson & Co were a key part of the commissioning team and communicated with over 70 suppliers to ensure the right equipment arrived on time and was installed as agreed. In a tight commissioning period with continual date changes the following three factors resulted in success:

  • Partnership relationships with suppliers – once contracts were awarded, close working relationships were forged with key suppliers to allow easy communication of the build progress and site safety
  • Delivery schedule – North Mid only had one access point for the new building and it was not a typical loading area. Crimson & Co managed the delivery schedule giving all suppliers clear instructions and scheduled delivery windows to minimise disruption on the one access road
  • Problem solving with a ‘can do’ attitude – the North Mid team had a ‘can do’ attitude and everyone, including suppliers, were regularly reminded of the end goal. This attitude and focus on the end goal built trust among the team and helped to maintain a positive attitude even at the most stressful of times

Results

Through various tender exercises Crimson & Co delivered a circa £400k saving against the initial cost estimate, representing a 10% saving. Equipment arrived on time allowing the maternity unit to open on time. A further four adult acute wards opened, an additional three ITU beds, one A&E resus bay and additional equipment for an acute assessment unit were also managed over the course of the project.

As well as hitting project timelines and saving costs the following benefits were also highlighted:

  • Clinical staff felt they were involved in the process of selecting their equipment through various trials and drop in sessions
  • There was a greater understanding of the procurement process among key members of the project team
  • Extended warranty and maintenance contracts were negotiated upfront on key items of equipment
  • Up to date technology was introduced into the new unit resulting in a better clinical outcome, which would not have been the case if price was the only evaluation criteria

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