Are NHS procurement pros facing more supplier litigation?

Procurement professionals in the NHS are entering a new era in which disgruntled suppliers are…...

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Procurement professionals in the NHS are entering a new era in which disgruntled suppliers are less nervous about ‘upsetting’ purchasing authorities and mounting legal challenges, a procurement expert notes. This may be taxing news for NHS procurement pros, who are trying to build a new NHS supply chain model overview, while juggling their regular functions of spend analytics, category management, strategic sourcing, supply relationship, and management, etc.

Former CPO, Peter Smith, who runs his own procurement consultancy, reviewed the recent legal challenge brought by US Pharma company, Abbvie, against the Department of Health (DoH). The Illinois-based pharmaceutical firm was one of many competing to supply medicines for the treatment of Hepatitis C, which the UK aims to eliminate five years before the World Health Organisation target. As Smith notes, it was the largest medicines procurement undertaken by the NHS, which NHS England (NHSE) described as worth ‘hundreds of millions of pounds.’ Contracts were for three years, with the possibility of a two-year extension.

Abbvie claimed that NHSE had contravened procurement rules by not treating all suppliers fairly, launching proceedings in London’s Technology and Construction Court this summer. Denying the claims, NHSE issued a statement, describing the legal claim as ’embarrassing for lack of particulars.’ Smith said that a comment this strong suggested that NHSE is confident it will win.

Smith says that this is one of several legal challenges faced by the Department of Health, including the recent DHL tribunal, which the DoH won. He writes: “Suppliers are less nervous about “upsetting” contracting authorities, they are also more aware of the rules and how they might frame a challenge, and sometimes they might challenge just to delay contract award, even if they are not sure their case is that strong. The treatments do not appear to be available yet so there is certainly a delay in this case.”

Nick Ford

Nick has over 30 years procurement experience in consulting, outsourcing and line roles within industry with international experience across many sectors and industries and led many procurement programs with blue chip organisations.

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