NHS England’s Chief Commercial Officer
“People often say that they fall into procurement. I didn't ‘fall’ into procurement; I made a very definite choice that this was the career path that I wanted to follow.”
These are the words of Jacqui Rock. Rock is NHS England’s Chief Commercial Officer and is spearheading one of the most significant reforms of NHS procurement since its inception. It’s a task of gargantuan proportions, but she has the expertise, the vision and the sheer tenacity to get it done.
The Challenges and Opportunities
Rock is aware of the challenges: “The NHS is in a very challenging time right now. There’s the very difficult winter we have been experiencing; COVID-19 is still with us. Then we have the significant impact of the cost-of-living crisis, higher inflation, increasing energy prices and the overall pressure that not only the NHS and our people are feeling, but also pressures that are being felt across the entire country.
“The way that I'd like to summarise that is by pointing to Amanda Pritchard, our Chief Executive, who at a recent conference, laid out the priorities for the NHS under ‘the four Rs’: Recovery, Resilience, Reform and Respect.”
Shaping the Market: Eliminating Waste and Redundant Contracts
One of Rock’s key commitments is to implement a strategic supplier management programme to help the NHS to shape and leverage the market.
Rock says: “We should be leveraging the market. We should be able to drive innovation through our suppliers. We must focus on greater resiliency in our supply chain. We want to focus on eliminating waste, and one of the things that I found really enlightening when I came in here, is that we’ve got multiple contracts with the same supplier for the same thing, but with lots of variation.
“This is something that we need to work on collaboratively and in partnership with our big strategic suppliers to discover how we can just simply buy better in the NHS.
“So, we've been spending a lot of time listening to suppliers and our key stakeholder Strategic Supplier Relationship Management teams to understand how this presently works and how we can align our strategies to make it as easy as possible to supply to the NHS.”
The Mission: Collaboration, Communication and Partnership
The reason that Rock set up the NHS Central Commercial Function was to take a good, hard look at how they buy across the NHS, so that taxpayer money is being spent in the most efficient way. Their commercial spend is in excess of £30bn per year. It's the largest spend in government, and they are spending in a very federated way because the NHS isn't just one organisation. The NHS is already one of the most efficient health services in the world, spending 2p in the pound on administration, compared to 5p in Germany and 6p in France, but Jacqui Rock says that there are opportunities to go further.
Rock says: “We want to make sure that NHS bodies and trusts have the autonomy to run their hospitals and their clinical pathways.
“But the real value of the commercial team is in collaboration: it’s about bringing everybody across 4,000+ procurement and supply chain professionals together, so that we can agree on category strategies and move forward with a single vision.
“What I am really doing is getting people to work together as commercial professionals.
“It’s about collaboration, it's about community, it's about partnership.
“Our buyers are very gifted – they know what they're doing – but they will be supercharged in their effectiveness once brought out of their silos, and enabled to see the bigger picture, for a better, stronger and much more effective NHS.”
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