IT suppliers face challenges and opportunities as the NHS commissioning structure evolves

The UK health and social care landscape is facing unprecedented fiscal pressures, which will severely impact the complex NHS commissioning structure and its capabilities to procure IT solutions and services, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Jonathan Cordwell, Principal Health & Social Care Analyst at GlobalData, commented: “New funds, new national bodies and new reporting structures within the NHS are often announced throughout the year and there is still a lot of confusion as to how these changes impact the commissioning structure as a whole. With the impending UK election on the horizon and the various pledges being made by Government, it is important that IT suppliers can see the wider picture and understand where the pockets of money lie within the healthcare system.”

Recent and proposed changes to the commissioning structure in the UK include the reduction in the number of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) within England, the proposal to replace Community Health Councils (CHCs) with a new independent body in Wales and Audit Scotland proposing to reduce the 14 Territorial Boards down to three or four.

Cordwell adds: “Whilst there are numerous reasons for simplifying the commissioning structure within the NHS, ultimately it comes down to the potential cost savings achieved from a leaner healthcare system although it remains to be seen whether this may cause issues down the road.”

There have also been additional funds recently announced such as the £3bn capital investment plan to rebuild hospitals and replace equipment in England and a £192m fund entitled ‘A Healthier Wales’.

Cordwell continues: “It is often unclear whether newly announced funds are in addition to current funds or whether they have been repackaged and reintroduced. That being said, although new funds are always welcomed by the NHS, they are rarely fit for purpose as, for example, the £3bn capital investment plan would only cover half of the NHS’s £6bn maintenance backlog.”

The UK’s healthcare system has an incredible challenge on its hand with many independent assessments deeming it unsustainable barring any significant, transformational changes. This includes a report by a Westminster committee stating that health services in Northern Ireland are at risk of deteriorating to the point of collapse and auditors warning that the NHS in Scotland will be financially unsustainable unless faster progress is made towards health and social care integration.

Cordwell concludes: “Whilst the NHS is facing considerable financial challenges, it opens the door for IT suppliers to propose solutions and services that reduce costs as well as increase efficiency and productivity. Suppliers must be proactive in bringing these ideas to the table at regional or even national levels and become strategic partners rather than simply reacting to tenders from individual buyers, especially with the looming deadlines for improved digital maturity.”

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