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Published 25 April 2014
The Finance & NHS Directorate, Procurement, Investment & Commercial Division has released a policy document ('Procurement transparency') which provides procurement guidance to all NHS provider organisations. The document follows on from the 'Better Procurement Better Value Better Care' document published in August 2013 and focuses on two main topics: sharing expenditure data and opening up public procurement.
'Better Procurement Better Value Better Care' set out a commitment to establish a national Spend Analysis and Price Benchmarking service (the "National Service"). The guidance explains what information NHS providers will be required to submit to the National Service and aims to make procurement transactions more transparent, which in turn will aid the sharing of line-level procurement expenditure data between NHS providers. This is hoped to enable the comparison of prices, leading to increased competition amongst the supplier base and the prioritisation of specific expenditure categories for procurement action.
The 2014/15 NHS Standard Contract has been amended so that all NHS providers are required to comply with the Transparency guidance if and when applicable. From April 2014, NHS providers are also required to take a number of steps, including:
The Department of Health and National Joint Registry will be publishing further guidance to assist NHS providers to discharge these actions which our firm will keep you updated on.
This publication signals further confirmation of the Government's wider agenda to increase transparency in procurement in the public sector and seeks to further drive forward the cultural change around openness across health and social care.
NHS providers should benefit from greater transparency in procurement, which will hopefully increase their purchasing power, particularly where framework agreements are being put in place, or where groups of providers are seeking to drive better deals through aggregated spend.
However, it seems that NHS Foundation and non-foundation Trusts may increasingly be unable to rely on commercial confidentially, so we are advising NHS providers to act on the basis that any procurement transaction data could be made available in the public domain. In addition, providers will need to ensure that their non-disclosure agreements, and any confidentiality obligations in contracts with suppliers, are appropriately drafted, in order to ensure compliance with this latest policy document from the Directorate.
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