NHS selects best in class catalogue solution

Posted by Pete Loughlin in NHS 17 Feb 2017

Those in the UK may have heard about it. Those in the UK’s National Health Service certainly know about it. As the NHS strives to become more efficient, procurement and purchase to pay are high on the agenda and as momentum continues to build within the NHS to deliver P2P excellence one of the important procurement consortia have recently announced a new framework with Elcom, one of the longest established e-catalogue and e-requisitioning providers around.

When trying to explain the significance of market events, I’m often driven to reminiscence. It’s not nostalgia. Provenance is important. Whether it’s the food we eat, the politicians we trust or the software we select for our business to run efficiently, knowing where they come from is important.

My initiation into the world of Purchase to Pay and in particular to e-procurement software was in the mid-1990s before the terms Purchase to Pay and e-procurement were coined. At the time, I was developing a catalogue based procurement solution to be delivered over the internet and sought other similar solutions that existed already. There were none. This was not surprising then and much less so now with the benefit of a historical perspective. The internet was young and was not yet trusted by business or governments. It was a bit like blockchain today – everyone knows it has the potential to change the world but its associations with bitcoin and the dark web give grounds for irrational suspicion amongst many. It would not be long before solutions emerged but there was one company that was already doing almost exactly what we were trying to do. That was Elcom.

Elcom is an AngloAmerican business that has delivered electronic catalogue based procurement solutions for longer than any that I know. It shared with very few peers the experience of surviving – albeit somewhat bruised – through the dotcom turbulence of the 2000s to grow in the 21st century to be one of the most robust catalogue and e-procurement solutions available today.

The NHS announcement is of course good news for Elcom who I would congratulate and who can build further on their success in supporting the NHS in Scotland. But it’s also good news for the NHS who in some quarters, have a mountain to climb to achieve best practice in P2P.

The framework, to quote the information published by the North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative, has been developed jointly by the four NHS CPP Hubs, with support from Trust catalogue specialists, to support both future developments and to ensure integration with existing systems as a priority. The system has been built to NHS specification with an emphasis on “integration, sharing and management of complex frameworks.”

Further information is available here: https://www.noecpc.nhs.uk/contracts/e-catalogue-and-e-requisitioning-solution#view-contract

The NHS is in the spot light because of rapidly rising costs. As an institution it is treasured by the UK public who fund it. The only way it will survive safely is if it is managed effectively and this is why procurement efficiencies are rightly being given focus and priority. The timetable for delivery of the Carter recommendations is demanding to say the least and there are interesting times not so far ahead in the world of P2P in the NHS.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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