33927 - NHS: Procurement (Answered)

Andrew Gwynne
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether his Department has conducted any research into the number of NHS organisations complying with guidance for the seven contract documents contained in the Guidance for NHS Terms and Conditions for the Supply of Goods and the Provision of Services, published in March 2015.

George Freeman

The Department has developed standard National Health Service terms and conditions for use by NHS bodies procuring goods and services from commercial suppliers. The documents were first published in August 2013.

The Department has details of all activity on the gov.uk website which shows extensive use and downloads of the documents and has also invited regular feedback and online surveys that demonstrate the extensive use of the suite of documents.

In June 2015, the Department and the Cabinet Office Mystery Shopper scheme carried out spot checks with a number of trusts to find out the level of take up of the NHS terms and conditions. The results showed 90% of the trusts contacted confirmed they were using (or intended to use) the NHS terms and conditions.

The suite of documents has been endorsed by the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), the industry association for the medical technology sector, and the Health Care Supply Association, the representative and network organisation for NHS buyers. Both organisations inform the Department of any activity they are aware of that NHS bodies or suppliers are deviating from the stated terms and conditions. There have only limited examples to date.

The Department of Health has been made aware of a couple of examples of where NHS bodies were extending their payment terms beyond 30 days. The examples came both via the Cabinet Office mystery shopper scheme and ABHI. To support their members ABHI undertook more extensive research but has found these are isolated cases and the practice is not widespread.

The Department understands the concern and together with NHS Provider Regulators are working very closely with NHS providers to ensure that they have sufficient cash to support the safe delivery of their essential services. Although the NHS financial position is tight, the Department has not endorsed, and do not support, formal extensions of credit terms, particularly with Small and Medium size Enterprises, beyond the 30 days in statute.

The Department will also ask NHS Improvement to communicate with all NHS providers through its official monthly bulletin to raise awareness of the Better Practice Payment Code.