Brexit to cost the NHS £1 billion a year

Posted by Pete Loughlin in Public Sector Procurement 14 Jul 2016

Procurement professionals in the UK’s National Health Service have their work cut out. The effect of Brexit on the NHS is going to cost an estimated £1 billion per annum according to Colin Cram, a veteran of Public Sector procurement in the UK.

Speaking at the Procurement Event for Health in Birmingham, England yesterday, Cram explained how the after effects of the UK’s Brexit vote would impact adversely on public services and in particular the NHS. As a direct result of the enormous currency fluctuations following Britain’s  decision to leave the EU, “the Carter savings will be wiped out” he claimed. Speaking privately after Crams presentation, one CPO of a major London hospital confided that they have already seen the effect on the price of IT hardware rising by up to 15% in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum.

Site LogoThe timely presentation at an otherwise mundane trade show drew perhaps the biggest audience of the day. Cram is a character whose opinion is respected by many. In discussing the post Brexit procurement landscape, he opined that there is not likely to be any significant effects in terms of procurement legislation. The European legislation that the UK public sector follows has been adopted in UK law and to change it would be complex, probably undesirable and certainly a low priority. But he explained, that doesn’t mean that Brexit won’t have a dramatic impact especially for the provision of public services. He speculated that a tighter control on immigration could cause local government services to “collapse’ as a relatively low skilled but highly valuable foreign work force would no longer provide services such as care for the elderly.

But the talk was not all doom and gloom and Mr Cram called on procurement professionals to adopt an innovative approach to procurement. Medical devices that can raise the alarm when hospital patients appear to be about to suffer a fall could save the NHS an astonishing £1.6 billion per annum he claimed. And collaboration with other public sector organisations such as local government and Universities could again deliver huge synergy.

The unintended consequence of the Brexit vote are profound and not just for the UK but the impact on the NHS – perhaps the most valued institution in the UK – is disastrous. Simply cutting costs further isn’t going to help. New ways of thinking are needed and it we need to make it easier for innovations that save money to be implemented. Too often, the focus on cost saving blinds people in positions of influence to the value that procurement delivers and we need to hear louder the the voices of the true innovators so that real investments in innovation can deliver the significant added value we need to preserve the NHS.

  • Nicholas Martin July 15, 2016 at 9:50 am /

    Very interesting article.

    Although Brexit introduces a lot of uncertainty, and risks such as the £1bn cost highlighted by Colin Cram, I hope it will also come with opportunities as well.

    The device to raise an alarm when patients appear to be about to suffer a fall is a great example. I believe that procurement can be instrumental in helping to find these new opportunities by working in partnership with their supplier networks.

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