In April, the guidance set out in PPN06/20 started to apply to NHS procurement. It was a huge change to the process that put social value front and centre. Now, procurement teams have to make sure any winning bids put a minimum 10% weighting into their social value efforts.
It’s a brilliant step forward for our communities, but an intimidating mountain for the NHS to climb. Just think about it; everyone in the UK is a stakeholder in some way. That’s a lot of pressure to ensure public money goes to the right places. And that’s on top of making sure everything stays on track to reach any goals.
But do you know what the good part of this is? Government procurement teams have been following this guidance since January 2021. That’s over a year of experience and lessons NHS teams can learn from. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad anymore!
Here are the 3 biggest takeaways you can pick up from government procurement.
#1 – Accountability is key
Perhaps the biggest challenge government procurement has faced since January 2021 is accountability. Big projects can lead to even bigger promises, but that doesn’t mean they always follow through. And from what we’ve seen, there’s been very little of it.
Without a consistent approach, the tender process has become skewed towards larger organisations. Those who use multipliers and proxy values to over-inflate forecasted figures and turn it into a race to the top. Whether they can actually generate that social value isn’t usually considered until the project is completed.
What’s the takeaway?
You want a clearer picture of their plans before you award the contract. Ask for qualitative responses at tender that don’t only share what they plan to achieve, but also how they’re going to get there. If they’re providing opportunities to the local community, find out in what ways. And how they came to that conclusion. See where they’re adapting their methods – perhaps using MMC – to ensure they meet their goals. Ask for examples from previous projects.
Next, make sure social value isn’t forgotten the second you award the contract. By inputting supplier claims immediately into a social value platform and tracking them throughout the project, you ensure they stay on track. The second they start to under-deliver, you can take quick action to resolve the issue. By keeping contractors accountable, it ensures success for everyone.
#2 – Focus on outcomes
Looking at what suppliers are going to do is only half the battle. You also want to pay attention to what the outcome is.
Social value isn’t about ticking a box, it’s about creating real change for people and the planet.
But without the accountability, these real-world outcomes can quickly be left behind. This is another point of contention that’s come to the surface since those Jacob Rees-Mogg rumours began circulating. You want to be sure that whoever wins the contract has an end goal in mind. After all, you can’t finish a race without knowing where the finish line is.
What’s the takeaway?
You want to make sure you link back to outcomes at all stages of the tender process. Let’s say a supplier commits to providing employment opportunities to a local, underprivileged area. Can they also show what this intervention will actually mean for these people and their community? How do they plan to monitor these outcomes to ensure they’re hitting all the deliverables outlined at tender?
It’s one thing to say what you’re going to do, another to demonstrate what that intervention means in the bigger picture. But this outcome-focused approach trickles from the top-down. It’s up to NHS procurement teams to set those expectations and ensure suppliers follow them through.
Which brings us onto…
#3 – Clearly communicate expectations
In a lot of ways, procurement teams set the pace when it comes to social value. So it’s up to you to encourage your suppliers to be better. Take this from government procurement teams, you need to be communicating your expectations early and effectively.
What’s been lacking in government procurement so far is consistency. In both social value understanding and approach. And while you might not be able to ensure consistency across the entire NHS, you can start demanding it from your own supply chain.
What’s the takeaway?
First of all, you need to be super clear about what your expectations are. What does social value mean to your organisation? What are your priorities and intended outcomes? What do you expect from tenders? What will you not accept? If you ask this of suppliers, you need to ask it of yourself.
Then it’s about making these intentions known. Producing a social value statement is a great way to do this. Based on the expectations you set, you can improve supplier accountability. You can push for that more outcome-focused approach. So long as you’re starting those conversations now.
No one’s expecting NHS procurement teams to have these changes already ironed out. After all, it’s only been a month. And government procurement has shown it takes a lot longer to find your feet and start seeing tangible results. But you stand to gain a lot by adopting the lessons learned over the last year. If you take them on board, you’ll be in a much better spot than those who don’t.
Impact makes the social value side of procurement simple for NHS teams. We work harmoniously with your existing procurement tools, streamlining data capture, analysis, and reporting. With us, comparing bids and keeping winning suppliers accountable becomes effortless. To find out more, schedule a demo or get in touch with the team on 0161 532 4752.