Only around a third of NHS trusts in London have their own permanent head of procurement or procurement director, HSJ research reveals.

Of the 33 provider trusts in the capital, 13 have permanent senior managers in charge of procurement – a key strand of the Carter efficiency drive.

Among the remaining 20:

  • six have interim managers;
  • four had set up a joint procurement scheme with another London trust;
  • one has a secondment from a larger trust;
  • three have outsourced the function completely;
  • five are part of UCLPartners Procurement Service; and
  • one is run by an associate chief executive.

Interims are in post at:

  • Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust;
  • Croydon Health Services Trust;
  • Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust;
  • King’s College Hospital FT;
  • St George’s University Hospitals FT; and
  • West London Mental Health Trust, which has had an interim in place for three years.

A spokesman for King’s said: “We currently have an interim director of procurement who is on a six month contract. Our intention is to recruit a permanent director. The job market for procurement roles is challenging – we want to ensure we find a person with the right mix of skills for the job.”

A spokesman for the Healthcare Supply Association, which represents NHS procurement staff, said: “Although interims perform a vital role and can bring different skills, a heavy reliance on them suggests internal issues that need addressing.

“The association believes effective NHS procurement is best delivered through those who see it as a long time career. Procurement skills are transferable between sectors but evidence indicates more to be done to make NHS procurement attractive.”

HSJ understands the trust staff in charge of procurement at London trusts range from a band 8a staff member to managers on the very senior management pay scale.

One senior manager said recruitment to head of procurement roles was more difficult in the capital because procurement managers had more access to other sectors in London, making the NHS a less attractive employer.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT’s chief procurement officer has been with the trust for 15 years. The deputy has been in post for 26 years and is the seconded a head of procurement to Lewisham and Greenwich Trust.

Both London’s community trusts have outsourced their procurement function. Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare Trust has outsourced to Essentia, the company spun out of GSST’s facilities department and owned by the teaching trust. Central London Community Healthcare Trust outsourced its procurement and other functions to Capita in 2015. East London FT outsourced its procurement to NHS Shared Business Services.

Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust and North East London FT procure jointly, as do trusts in Chelsea, Royal Marsden FT and Chelsea and Westminster FT Trust. The Royal Brompton and Harefield FT’s procurement is headed by an associate chief executive.

Five trusts in north London have a shared service under the UCLPartners Procurement Services. HSJ revealed last year that the director of this service had stood down after an investigation prompted by an audit of the consortium. Investigations are ongoing.