Evidence-based decisions on spending require a system that can handle data from multiple sites and provide real-time insights, writes Lee Jackson

Integrated care is about providing seamless services across a spectrum of healthcare providers. For me, good quality data lies at the crux of truly integrated care. Data is critical for achieving the best possible procurement negotiations and supplier competition outcomes. We can only enhance the NHS’s procurement processes at a system level by capturing accurate data from the outset and then using it effectively.

Good data equips NHS procurement teams to make evidence-based decisions that optimise the value of every pound spent. It enables a strategic approach, where insights derived from data analytics inform the selection of products and services that align with patient needs and the goals of integrated care systems (ICSs).

Transformation at an ICS level

At our ICS (North West London) we wanted comprehensive data to enable our procurement teams across the system to analyse spending patterns, identify variations in product usage, and recognise opportunities for standardisation and bulk purchasing.

When I joined in November 2021, there was no way of determining the total spend across the ICS, which included nine NHS organisations. Some trusts used three different enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and others didn’t have any system to analyse procurement activity properly. If we were going to gain transparency over spend, we needed a comprehensive, integrated approach.

How to ensure you have good data

The crucial element for addressing these challenges is a comprehensive system which can handle data from multiple NHS trusts.

For us, the implementation of AdviseInc’s Platform+ was a crucial step in being able to handle data from multiple sources. It helped start our journey towards setting up a shared procurement service. It provides a powerful solution that gives the ICS a unified view of procurement activities. It also enables in-depth spend analytics and facilitates greater operational efficiency.

With data to manage across multiple sites within our region, we needed one system that everyone felt confident using and could give us real-time insight. We knew this would be transformative, enabling our procurement teams to adapt to dynamic demands and reduce waste through just-in-time inventory management.

This was a crucial part of our ‘Stronger Together’ transformation programme, which set out to consolidate the procurement function across eight NHS trusts and one ICB. This would unite a total expenditure of £6.4bn under the proactive North West London Procurement Services (NWLPS) management.

The project was driven by a specific operational need to establish an integrated system that could handle data from multiple NHS trusts and provide actionable insights to enhance procurement efficiency and effectiveness.

We were able to enhance spend analytic capabilities and reporting through AdviseInc, allowing our ICB team to focus on delivering value and actionable intelligence. They provided a single view of the spend data and engaged with local teams to understand the nuances. We also collaborated on a new procure-to-pay (P2P) ability to identify process opportunities, such as tracking critical process KPIs from requisition to receipt and invoice. This approach provided measurable metrics to gauge and benchmark process effectiveness and identify areas for improvement with our process cycles.

Maximise efficiency through collaboration

The strength of integrated care is in collaboration across all the organisations involved. We knew a Shared Service Board was pivotal in creating a cohesive and shared view of governance and KPIs to monitor the performance of the function, enhancing transparency and accountability.

Continuous improvement is ingrained in our procurement activities now. Using data across the ICS means we can systematically analyse and refine our procurement processes to ensure we stay on the front foot.

Through structured collaboration this governance model facilitated the connection between category management, strategic sourcing, our ordering cycle, and supplier management, allowing for the identification of common challenges and the exchange of best practices.

The road ahead

Our shared service anticipates the need for coordinated collaboration across the supply chain and actionable intelligence at a national, regional and ICS level. We have plans to develop intelligence at a pan-London level and focus on longer-term category-based planning, fostering close collaboration with the other four London ICSs. This will give a comprehensive overview of expenditure across all ICSs in the capital, collectively representing 20% of the total NHS spending.

As we strive for increasingly integrated health service delivery, procurement teams must adapt and use robust data to provide better insight, address challenges and capitalise on opportunities.

Lee JacksonLee Jackson is managing director, North West London Procurement Services.