The healthcare sector is one of the most important in modern society, with effective healthcare helping people to be healthier, happier and more productive. Procurement is a significant factor in the success of healthcare, with organisations requiring the right supplies on site to support their staff and patients. Find out more about some of the biggest issues facing senior procurement managers in the sector and how ELCOM solutions can help to respond to these problems.

What are the main procurement issues the NHS is facing?

In spite of its prominent role in modern society, the NHS faces a range of complex challenges in its procurement processes. These challenges include:

Private competition

The first issue that the NHS comes up against is that of private competition. For the majority of people in the UK, healthcare is a nationalised provision. However, some private companies also operate in the healthcare space, and compete with the NHS for resources and suppliers. This is especially true for resources that are somewhat scarce. NHS procurement managers work within a tight budget, with private organisations able to outspend the NHS as they can make the money back with price adjustments.

Slim budgets

Repeat UK governments since 2010 have had a focus on slimming down the size of the government’s spending, limiting expenses and keeping the national budget at a surplus. This means that procurement managers work in limited boundaries, with set budgets to complete all of their procurement. Procurement managers spend a lot of their time trying to find good value for money thanks to this constraint, rather than being able to select the best materials on the market regardless of the cost.

Regulatory transitions

Health is one of the main scientific fields, having significant advances with practical value taking place every single year. As our understanding of the sciences develops, the way that we regulate certain medical goods and techniques advances. Procurement managers need to keep track of constantly evolving rules and regulations surrounding medicine. The alternative is to risk breaching the rules, facing fines and potentially causing harm to patients.

Developing relationships

Suppliers in the healthcare industry tend to be long-term. Established institutions that have experience of making medicines and other sterile goods develop expertise in this area, manufacturing more of the products over time. These long-term institutions are ideal partners for a procurement manager, so building a strong relationship with supplier partners makes the difference between effective procurement and a hospital struggling to get the supplies it needs.

What are the solutions?

Hospitals have a few solutions available to them, depending on the specific strategy they have an interest in following. See some ideal solutions below:

Learn from mistakes

Everyone in procurement makes the occasional mistake. Whether this is choosing a bad supplier or ordering the wrong amount of a specific item, a procurement error is something that can initially seem costly, but you get past over time. Learning from these errors is essential for better performance going forwards. You know the companies to avoid and the specific mistakes that you tend to make, fixing them for next time and overall improving the standard of your work. Pay attention to adapting to your errors over time and you’ll perform to a higher standard.

Try supply chain management

If a procurement manager is struggling with the procurement process, turning to automation could be an ideal way of resolving the issue. Using an eProcurement or eCommerce partner such as ELCOM is a significant step forwards in resolving the supply chain issues that hospitals face, informing users of the amount of stock left at any time, increasing efficiency throughout the supply chain and adding transparency to the way that hospitals order goods and equipment. You work within budgets more consistently and reduce the risk of running out of a certain product in a high-pressure situation, helping the hospital to perform better.

Resolve your procurement issues

One of the largest potential sources of inefficiency in a hospital is in the procurement process. By improving the way you procure products, you can make the most of your hospital’s budget and help to bring better outcomes for all of the patients in your care.


  • Carolina Duran

    Carolina Duran, VP of Marketing at ELCOM, joined ELCOM in May 2016 to lead the company's marketing team and implement a robust and efficient strategy to secure brand positioning and growth in the UK and internationally. ELCOM is a global Supply Chain Technology Provider which praised itself for making procurement smarter, more connected, and transparent.

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