Walk the Walk: NHS England, Improvement and Supply Chain By Vaishali Baid

‘Walk the Walk’ discusses the various trends and developments from the world of sustainability with seasoned professionals. The series aims to share the journey that organisations take in sustainability, discussing their views, the lessons they learned and opportunities created. Most organisations can talk the talk when it comes to sustainability, but we prefer to interview ones that walk the walk.

In this edition, we talk with Alexandra Hammond, Head of Sustainable Procurement and Supply Chain at NHS England and NHS Improvement, where she is responsible for delivering a net zero Carbon Footprint Plus for the NHS.

She is joined by Martin Toomey, who is Sustainability Manager at NHS Supply Chain, where he is responsible for and advises the Supply Chain teams for delivering a net-zero carbon footprint for the NHS. This includes driving social value and eradicating modern slavery across the supply chain.

In 2020, the NHS became the world’s first national health system to commit to being ‘carbon net zero’. Carbon Footprint Plus includes the NHS’ wider supply chain, aiming for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2036-2039 and net zero by 2045.

The following conversation took place between Alexandra (AH), Martin (MT), and our sustainable procurement and social value consultant Vaishali Baid, discussing how the NHS creates social value, why it matters to them, and more. 

1. What does social value mean to you?

AH: Social Value isn’t new – it is a pillar of the fundamental purpose of the NHS – caring for people and fostering a healthy environment. I am passionate about how healthcare, with the support of our many suppliers can make a positive impact for patients and local communities.

MT: I want to leave a legacy – to leave the world better for my future generations by making a positive impact in my workplace and the work I do. In my current role, I am taking this agenda further with social value. The pandemic has raised the importance of health systems and the positive impact they can bring to our society.

2. NHS is building social value into all procurement, there will be a 10% weighting on this in all contracts from April 2022. How will this help NHS reach the goal of net zero and address health inequalities, driving more value from every pound spent?

AH: We have made a conscious decision to embed and drive net zero carbon and social value through procurement, aligning with the Cabinet Office’s Social Value Model (PPN 06/20).

The government defines five specific social value themes; fighting climate change, COVID-19 recovery, tackling economic inequality, equal opportunity, and wellbeing. These themes align with NHS long term strategic goals, such as our commitment to reach net zero by 2045 and reducing health inequalities.

MT: We are adopting PPN 06/20 in our frameworks to deliver change and help in building back better for our society and our supply chain. The social value model will be our vessel to support us and start our journey from net zero towards positive impacts and outcomes.

With this, we have also actively chosen to evolve, accelerate, and extend our innovation efforts for our customers and patients.

NHS' supplier roadmap which will help their NHS social value goals.

An outline of NHS England’s net zero supplier roadmap.

3. From 2030, suppliers will only be able to qualify for NHS contracts if they can demonstrate their progress and continued carbon emissions reporting. A bold statement! Could you please elaborate?

AH: The supplier roadmap is a critical piece of guidance for our supply chains covering social value and our net zero objectives.  It sets out the key milestones that suppliers need to implement between now and the end of the decade.

We want our suppliers to take this journey with us towards net zero and social value. It starts with the inclusion of PPN 06/20 from April this year and it signals to our current and future suppliers to prepare as it will be part of every procurement process.

From April 2023, we will require all suppliers with new contracts with a value above £5 million per annum to have a publicly available carbon reduction plan for scope 1 & 2 emissions. The good news is this is not new to our suppliers, and many are already on this journey with us.

Suppliers will eventually only be able to qualify for NHS contracts if they can demonstrate their progress through published progress reports and continued carbon emissions reporting through the supplier assessment, Evergreen.

We want our suppliers to have clear, robust, and measurable targets to reduce emissions in line with our NHS net zero targets.

The scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions for the NHS’ carbon footprint and carbon footprint plus.

4. What are your suppliers and customers communication, engagement and involvement strategy for social value?

AH: Our customers are our colleagues such as in primary and secondary care, hospitals, GP practices, pharmacy etc.  We want everyone to be engaged on social value across the NHS. We hold a bi-monthly sustainable procurement forum, which is represented by procurement and sustainability leads from across the NHS.

We also communicate our programme’s strategy and supplier expectations through our sustainable supplier forum, comprised of trade bodies representing the NHS supply chain.

We have a sustainable procurement workspace on Future NHS which all NHS staff are welcome to join and a monthly procurement transformation bulletin which anyone can sign up to receive.

My team also spoke at the National Procurement Forum in December 2021, indicating to heads of procurement across England the imperative to integrate net zero and social value into all procurement activities.  It is a journey which we will take together by supporting them to choose relevant net zero and social value elements and work with suppliers to encourage them to engage with our Net Zero Supplier Roadmap.

MT: Within NHS SCCL, we are conducting a regular supplier monthly forum, as well as market engagements where social value is discussed intensely.

We are updating our key sourcing and procurement strategy documentation where our partners will have to demonstrate how they are going to apply social value within the frameworks and particular categories. Last year, we began to integrate social value into some of our tenders as we want to be ahead of the curve to abreast our suppliers about social value and what is expected from them. This strategy has led suppliers to reach out to us with potential solutions and relevant questions which will help us to make the process more robust.

5. With a global supply chain and supplier base like NHS, how does social value fit within the NHS radar?

AH: The NHS move to an Integrated Care System model later this year will enable NHS trusts, councils, and primary care to act collectively to coordinate procurement – buying products and services regionally. This will provide an opportunity to find net zero and social value opportunities with suppliers on a place-based scale. With this model we intend to understand the social and environmental challenges facing local regions and build strategies to address them.

MT: We are looking at Social Responsibility and Social Value when it comes to our supply chain. We are buying from a global supplier base and us wit our procurement process consider the environmental and human impact of the products’ journey through our supply chain. From raw materials sourcing to production, storage, delivery and every transportation link in between.

Due to the complex nature of supply chains, we have started deploying technology to bring more transparency in our supply chains to extend our efforts deeper into the supplier base. Our impact is global in terms of carbon and social value and therefore our efforts led us to consider social responsibility within our supply chain.

Our procurement teams are working with various healthcare systems and associations to find sustainable solutions for taking out single use plastics, looking at our carbon footprint and getting it down from our supply chain. We’re also looking at how we can support our customers doing the same, bring innovative solutions and modernize our operations.

6. What would be your three tips on how to integrate social value in procurement?

AH: 1.Direction – Our upcoming Guidance on net zero and social value will provide direction on how to integrate net zero and social value within tenders.

2.Think local – Start by understanding the key social and environmental issues impacting the local and regional community, and how suppliers can provide meaningful solutions through procurement

3. Question your question – Add clear and relevant questions in procurement tenders which drive meaningful social value and prompt suppliers to respond with measurable and ambitious objectives to drive implementation.

MT: 1. Be realistic and simplistic about your ask from social value in procurement.

2. The key is being relevant and link to the subject matter of the contract.

3. Move from most-economically advantageous tender mindset to most-advantageous tender approach for long term results.

Alexandra Hammond, Head of Sustainable Procurement for NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Alexandra Hammond, Head of Sustainable Procurement at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

7. Social Value is all about bringing a positive impact to people’s lives – What’s your take on the measurement of the social value-led approach?

AH: We are stewards of public money, and we need to focus spend on where we can deliver more than just products and services. We need to support our local communities, and ensure we have a clear and consistent way of measuring our impacts.

My team at NHS England and NHS Improvement will support trusts with measurement of social value. The key is to start net zero and social value conversations with our stakeholders to normalise the discussions and spark creative solutions and partnerships.

MT: For us, this is an enabler on how we spend public money and taking account of social dimensions in the evaluation of tenders.  We need to ensure the way we spend taxpayers’ money contributes to the sustainable development of the UK.

8. Lastly, what are your thoughts on how important it is for the global healthcare sector to work together towards bringing social responsibility in procurement/supply chain?

AH: Following the exciting commitments made by other national health systems at COP26, we are committed to sharing knowledge and ideas to scale impact.  We want our suppliers to hear a collective voice from healthcare that delivering net zero carbon and social value is urgent and important.  A big part of our plan this year is to work with global health partners to build our collective voice.

MT: We need a common voice and language, so our partners and suppliers understand what the world is asking for! And, rather than making a onetime effort, we should as a global community, think about how we can continue the legacy of our social outcomes.

We have to collaborate with suppliers to make that change because if we don’t put up with them in beginning it will be there at the end…

The key takeaways from Alex and Martin:

This conversation has been edited for blog repurposing.

For more information

Vaishali Baid
Sustainable Procurement and Social Value Consultant

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