Procurement in the NHS recently came under scrutiny following the publication of the PCT Procurement Guide for Health Services. As the coalition government begins to cut spending throughout the public sector, trusts must seriously consider procuring legal services in a sustainable manner that provides value for money.

The guiding principles of the public sector procurement model are to secure value for money through collective buying power, to encourage knowledge sharing through networking and training, and to reduce duplication among the members.

But although they are widely embraced by a whole range of local authorities, legal consortium panels are still very much unknown entities among healthcare trusts. Joint ventures and partnerships are praised in the procurement guide but, in practice, the majority of trusts still roam the procurement landscape in solitude. 

The following case study looks at how one collaborative procurement project operates.

Case study

In 2006, Nottinghamshire county council had its own partnership arrangement with two private sector providers. There were no doubt significant savings to be made from pooling purchasing power and reducing duplication of work carried out across local authorities. The challenge was how to get more for less. The answer chosen was EMLawShare, which:

  • currently has 50 members
  • has achieved around £4m savings since 2006
  • counts unitaries, councils, districts, fire and rescue and police authorities as members.

Joint procurement and reduced rates through a competitive tendering process has, by itself, produced significant savings, but it is in the provision of value added services where the consortium really excels. The panel firms Weightmans, DLA Piper, Freeth Cartwright, Anthony Collins and Browne Jacobson offer members a range of services, including a comprehensive training programme, at a reduced cost or free.

Less easy to quantify but no less important in judging the project’s efficiency are the savings made by members through networking and sharing of knowledge. Significant legal issues affect public bodies across the board and one recent example was in respect of equal pay. Through EM LawShare, members shared ideas and advice about how it had been addressed within their own authorities – providing vital information about what had worked or failed. If professional advice was sought, it was only required once instead of 50 calls for private legal advice being made.

How it works

EMLawShare strives to fundamentally change behaviours and revolutionise how legal services are purchased and advice is sought by those working in local authorities. Five private sector law firms have recently been selected to advise all consortium members on a range of legal issues, although there is no obligation for members to solely instruct these firms. The guiding principles are to secure value for money and encourage knowledge sharing and these can be easily replicated in other regions.

How to join

  • If you are in the consortium’s East Midlands catchment area, contact Jayne Francis-Ward
  • You will then receive relevant contact details, information about how the consortium works, a range of practical leaflets and details of the training programme.
  • To start using the panel firms, you will need to appoint an instruction officer and give their details to EMLawShare. You can provide a list of up to five people who are authorised to give instructions to the law firms and once their details have been registered with the panel firms, you are ready to start using their services.

We are hoping to expand the membership and encourage trusts to join up while at the same time developing the provider panel so that members can instruct barristers as well as solicitors. The aim of EM LawShare is for our members not to simply treat it as a joint procurement exercise. It is so much more than that and the way in which our members communicate and share ideas will form the centrepiece of our development over the next 12 to 18 months.