Alastair McLellan on how the HSJ Partnership Awards winners and those shortlisted have accepted the challenge to help the NHS deliver during a period of intense pressure
The Partnership Awards are HSJ’s first ever celebration of the innovation and excellence demonstrated by the NHS’s commercial partners.
This year the NHS celebrates its 70th anniversary – and there will rightly be much focus on the service’s foremost place in the nation’s heart. But that triumph was not achieved alone.
When the NHS was born, HSJ was already well into its sixth decade. To flick through copies of HSJ from 1948 is to see advertisements for a wide range of goods and services being offered to the fledgling National Health Service.
Over the last seven decades, suppliers of goods and services have responded time and again to the NHS’s developing needs. Innovation, service improvement and enhanced efficiency have often been the direct product of a new product and/or process introduced by one of the service’s trading partners.
NHS organisations need the expertise of suppliers to maintain service quality within an ever-tightening budget
Sometimes it is simply easier to develop a new idea outside the NHS and then gradually introduce it. The private sector is often able to move faster, invest more and take greater risks.
The partnership between the NHS and those who supply it has often had its difficulties. There has been – and remains – considerable frustration and misunderstanding on both sides. But for every contractual wrangle or poor specification there are countless examples of successful relationships lasting a decade or more and real customer satisfaction.
Of course, right now things are tough – for many suppliers and their NHS customers. Austerity bites deep on suppliers as well as healthcare providers. Margins are squeezed, R&D budgets jettisoned, product and service development can stall.
In that context the innovation displayed by our shortlisted and winning entrants is even more impressive. It is also, of course, vital to the service’s sustainability and future.
Faced with seemingly impossible efficiency targets, and having made every possible economy, NHS organisations need the expertise of suppliers to maintain service quality within an ever-tightening budget. There is also little chance of the Five Year Forward View becoming reality without advances developed by commercial suppliers becoming an integral part of the NHS operating model.
The companies we celebrate today are those that have accepted the challenge to help the NHS deliver during a period of intense pressure.
Top NHS suppliers named in inaugural HSJ Partnership Awards
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Innovation is vital to the NHS's sustainability and future