Much has been written about the principles of the new healthcare procurement framework ProCure21+. But what does it mean in practice for NHS and other health related organisations? And for those who have not used the scheme before, what can they expect? Andrew Jowett explains.

ProCure21+ - Why and How the Framework is Working                                            

While the ProCure21+ framework is based upon P21, there have been some significant changes, placing greater emphasis on governance, at a strategic and scheme level, training and improving value for money for the NHS.

We have also seen requirements change. Efficiency measures mean our clients expect high quality for lower costs; challenging us to find ever more innovative solutions.

Despite the budget challenges facing the NHS, there have been a good number of opportunities through the new framework, ranging from wholesale estate rationalisation and development schemes through to minor works programmes.

What is ProCure21+ all about?

For those considering changes to their NHS estate or developing new facilities, ProCure21+ can be used as a tool to help achieve the cost savings and changes set out in the health bill.

ProCure21+ is approved by the Department of Health, and is a framework for the procurement of both new build and refurbishment schemes for NHS facilities. It enables pre-approved supply chains to be available to NHS clients without them having to go through the lengthy and potentially expensive tendering procedures of the EU OJEU (the Official Journal of the European Union).

Why Was ProCure21+ Introduced?

When Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction report was produced in 1998, the Department of Health commissioned a framework to improve the procurement process for publicly funded schemes. The ProCure21 National Framework was the result. It enabled NHS clients to achieve better levels of performance and value for money than those resulting from traditional tendering. Schemes were delivered faster, on time and within budget, patients were able to access care more quickly, and NHS Clients were able to generate additional revenue.

In 2008, ProCure21+ was put into development. The new programme retains the fundamental principles of its predecessor, but has been updated to reflect the changed landscape of government policy, the NHS, the economy, client demand and procurement itself.

How Does ProCure21+ work?

The fundamental objective of ProCure21+ is to deliver improved value for money in healthcare capital projects.

Six principal supply chain partners (PSCPs) have signed a framework agreement with the Secretary of State for Health.

The framework means that NHS clients have access to pre-approved supply chains for capital works; collaboration is fostered between clients and PSCPs; good project management technique is instilled to improve performance, maximise value and deliver mutual benefits; and an ‘open book’ operating policy provides transparency and understanding among clients, PSCPs and their supply chains.

Other key areas covered by the framework include making certain that clients and the supply chains they select have the right experience and training to ensure they can deliver, and bringing in PSCPs early in the project to build more effective teams.

With clients and their supply chains working collaboratively to develop schemes using common principles, processes and tools that have been proven to deliver high quality schemes on time and within budget, no wonder Simon Burns, Minister for Health says that “ProCure21+ will cut bureaucratic waste…..(and)….hospital refurbishments will be quicker and more cost effective”.

Why the ProCure21+ Route?

There are several reasons why clients should consider the benefits of the ProCure21+ route to achieve changes to an NHS estate or development of new facilities. Here are just some of them:

  • Arguably the two greatest benefits of the programme are accountability and predictability. These two qualities manifest themselves in many areas of the programme, and can be applied to both the client side and the supply chain side of things. And one of the most critical areas in which both accountability and predictability are highly welcome is that of cost. ProCure21+, through its transparency of operating procedures and open book accounting system, offers the ability to control costs and secure a level of cost certainty that could not be achieved through traditional tendering.
  • In today’s economic climate ProCure21+ reduces a client’s exposure to the pitfalls of traditional contracting, while taking advantage of competitive rates and margins for work. In addition, the programme has a single comprehensive risk management process mandated on all schemes.
  • Having high quality, pre-approved supply chains already to hand means that advice and work can commence and progress far more quickly than would be the case in traditional tendering projects.
  • Any NHS clients and supply chain staff taking part in their first ProCure21+ scheme receive training which is free of charge from the Department of Health, and a start-up workshop is provided by the selected PSCP.
  • ProCure21+ provides a tried and tested toolkit for delivering schemes on time and within budget: the programme and its predecessor have successfully delivered over 400 capital schemes.
  • The comprehensive use of key performance indicators for all schemes, coupled with monthly monitoring returns for all schemes and random scheme audits all provide real assurances for NHS Clients that projects will run smoothly.

Selecting a preferred PSCP

When selecting a preferred principal supply chain partner (PSCP), clients are offered a process to follow as part of the ProCure21+ framework. As part of this process, all six PSCPs on the framework are approached by the Client. After this, the selection process proceeds.

So what criteria can clients use to determine what will make an ideal PSCP? One of the key indicators must surely be the overall principles and ethos by which the company operates:

  • Is the partnership approach well and truly entrenched in all aspects of that company’s dealings with its clients and supply chain members?
  • Is the company committed to providing value for money and predictability of cost?
  • Can the company demonstrate genuine in-depth expertise in the Health sector with a track record to prove it?
  • Does the company have adequate safety procedures in place?
  • How can the company demonstrate its commitment to sustainability?
  • Does the company have a client-focused service culture?
  • What evidence is there for the company’s innovation, flexibility and creativity?
  • Can the company truly be called a “single point” solution with expertise in the disciplines of consultancy, investment, design, construction and support?
  • And what about the use of local suppliers and a superior supply chain management set-up?