If we truly want a fast-moving and innovative NHS then procurement processes that lock out small and medium sized enterprises need to change, argues Matt O’Donovan of WiFi SPARK.

Current procurement practices mean the NHS is limited in which service providers it can choose for its technology and equipment needs. Larger and more established service providers wield greater power in this market and take centre stage when it comes to competitive tenders and big procurement frameworks, such as RM1045.

But with the NHS looking ahead to how it can progress in the digital age and enhance patient care, it is imperative the sector considers products from small and medium-sized enterprises.

Despite the government’s introduction of G-Cloud in 2012 – a framework designed to improve the public sector’s access to cost effective providers – many organisations are not utilising the incredible technology on offer here.

While the bigger procurement frameworks are partly to blame, the problem is also organisations being locked into lengthy contracts with the dominant suppliers.

Some technology contracts in the NHS have lasted upwards of 30 years, which can mean extensive profit for the service provider and little return on investment for the customer.

Taking full advantage of G-Cloud means accessing over 8,000 SME suppliers with cutting-edge technology and the agility to meet NHS’s requirements for rapid digital adoption, so that patients can start benefitting from improved services sooner rather than later.

Research from the International Institute for Advanced Purchasing and Supply has shown that typically organisations who use G-cloud save around 50% compared to legacy contracts.

And as of March this year, 48% of total sales by value and 70% by volume from all reported G-Cloud sales to date were awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises. So it seems those procurement teams that do look to the SMEs of G-Cloud find the right services and price points to suit their organisations.

In which areas of NHS IT could a greater embrace of SMEs yield speedy improvements? Consider the issue of wifi access. NHS Digital announced in March that only 43% of GP practices had free wifi in place – despite having an initial roll-out deadline of December 2017. Logistical issues were cited the delay in implementation. Could organisations look to smaller wifi providers to speed up the process?

Technology is already empowering healthcare staff to deliver faster, more effective and precise services. By allowing agile, SME service providers to enter the procurement picture, the NHS will see the benefits.

Matt O’Donovan is founder and CEO of WiFi SPARK.