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The task

We were commissioned by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) to study the existing landscape for the sustainable procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.  The purpose of this study was to inform the NHS of existing sustainability best practice within the healthcare sector to allow the SDU to make more informed decision making in the future.  The brief was to establish the following key aims:

  • A summary of legislation and initiatives that foster sustainable procurement;
  • Understanding how key suppliers and procurers perceive sustainable procurement in the NHS to establish where barriers and opportunities lie; and
  • providing examples of where best practice already exists to demonstrate that it can be done   

The study was undertaken around the framework of the BS8903 standard for sustainable procurement (now superseded by the international ISO 20400 standard).  

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Action

Research was then undertaken to facilitate the development of the study.  This included:

  • A desktop study to establish legislation and standards in the healthcare sector relevant to sustainable procurement.  This study was a study of global best practice;
  • Structured face to face meetings and telephone conversations with relevant professionals to understand how embedded sustainable procurement is within the healthcare sector.  This included conversations with professionals in North America, Europe and in the UK; and
  • A desktop study to develop case studies and establish sustainability best practice internationally.  Once developed these case studies were fed into the SDU’s case study library.

The outcome

We produced a comprehensive report: “Investigating the current state of sustainable procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical devices” based on the findings of the research undertaken.  In addition, an executive summary was produced providing the NHS with a series of key recommendations, based on the key aspects of the BS 8903 standard, including drivers, policy & strategy; leadership; people; risks, opportunities and engaging the supply chain; measurement; and the procurement process.

The study was a comprehensive piece of work and found that there are significant opportunities to include sustainability as a consideration within the purchase and supply of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.  Our research showed that a simple understanding of the benefits of a more sustainable approach to procurement exists, but needs to be more widespread to become as effective as possible.  To remedy this the right leadership is needed do drive this from the top down, through awareness, training and support for procurement teams and supply chain managers.