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For years now there have been those in government and at the centre of the NHS who look at the scale of the NHS and imagine the kinds of savings they could get from procurement if they could leverage the size of the organisation when buying things.

The national drug procurement set-up is a case in point. NHS England buys and manages the supply of billions of pounds of drugs for the NHS. It uses the scale of the health service, and the fact that it is essentially a healthcare market monopoly, to negotiate good deals with pharma companies.

This works so well that the NHS is “infamous” around the world for getting good deals, according to its new director of transformation Tim Ferris, who joined the service from a US non-profit provider last year.

The NHS wants to take that expertise and apply it to other spend categories, buying things like tech and IT nationally to drive lower costs. But first, it “does require us to be more organised” and scale procurement efforts nationally.

Part of the job of NHSE’s new Central Commercial Function is to find national purchasing opportunities. It is going to be interesting to see where that ends up.

A measure of success

On paper at least, it’s been a good six months for the regime formerly known as “special measures”.

An update to NHSE’s strategic oversight framework placed all trusts in one of four segments depending on performance. 

Since the last iteration of the SOF in November, four trusts have moved out of “segment four” (previously known as special measures). No trusts have been relegated into this group, which is now 14-strong.

The four trusts promoted to segment three were Isle of Wight; Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn; Sheffield Health and Social Care; and United Lincolnshire Hospitals.

The only trust to have been downgraded in the latest ratings was Tavistock and Portman, a specialist mental health trust, which has dropped from segment one to segment three. Trusts in segment three receive mandated support from NHSE.

Although it is a relatively small trust, T&P has gained a national profile because of the ongoing controversy over its services for transgender children. 

The new rating follows an external review published in January. This revealed multiple corporate governance problems and deep-seated cultural issues.

Also on today

In The Download, Nick Carding asks how the merger between NHSE and NHS Digital is likely to affect staff, and in a comment piece, Robert Harris outlines seven essential factors to ensure the success of virtual wards, enabling a system-wide reduction in hospital care.