Walk the Walk: NHS NOE CPC - Prioritising Social Value in the NHS By Vaishali Baid

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

Since the introduction of PPN 06/20 back in September 2020, there has been a significant focus on how social value can be best adopted and promoted through procurement activities. The NHS has emerged as a leader in the social value field, with NHS NOE CPC (North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative) playing vital roles in society and our communities. It’s crucial that organisations and supplier partners working with the NHS prioritise social value within their procurement.

In this edition, we talk with Alistair Clay, Sustainability and Social Value Manager NOE CPC.

Tell us about yourself and what is NHS NOE CPC?

Firstly, thank you so much for this opportunity to share information on social value within the NHS! I have been in my role as Sustainability and Social Value Manager for 12 months. Previously, I had a background of both procurement and sustainable procurement at NHS Supply Chain and NHS England.

North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative (NOE CPC) is part of the NHS and provides a range of procurement and added-value services to both the NHS and the public sector. At NOE CPC, we pride ourselves in providing a portfolio of frameworks for the purchase of products and services.  We also provide value-adding training and supplementary services that are utilised by both our NHS membership organisations, as well as other public sector organisations around the country and devolved nations.

Collaboration is integral to achieving Social Value. How do you collaborate with NHS suppliers to achieve Social Value?

For me, social value is only successful if your supply chain understands and buys into it. Most contracting authorities in the public sector know that asking a social value question at the tender stage is the easy bit, contract managing the commitments made in the response, presents contracting authorities with additional resource pressure. The NHS is no different and should face into this challenge through the lens of efficiency. All stakeholders across the trust or contracting authority need to be invested and prepared to hold the supplier to account for their commitments.

By fostering collaboration with suppliers on social value (and ultimately, sustainable procurement) the additional commitments are more likely to be received by the stakeholders they’re intended to reach. Whether that is the local inhabitants, staff working on the contract in question, and/or the environment.

NOE CPC does this continuously by raising awareness with both prospective and awarded suppliers through the following mediums:

  • A quarterly supplier webinar aimed at demystifying sustainable procurement requirements in the NHS.
  • By producing externally facing supplier guidance documents.
  • Delivering a continuous supplier relationship management (SRM) programme.

By doing the above, we seek to provide the latest information on NHS procurement policy, as well as answer any questions suppliers have on social value and sustainable procurement.

How do you recommend NHS suppliers get the most out of social value within their bids?

To deliver empowering social value in both the NHS and public sector, suppliers should consider the below:

  • Be aware of the current and future requirements within the NHS Net Zero Supplier Roadmap.
  • When providing their commitments, suppliers should consider the following:
    • Am I providing something additional? (outside the core deliverables of the contract I’m bidding for).
    • Is my bid submission relevant to what is being asked in the question? I often see suppliers detail both past achievements and irrelevant commitments.
    • Is my commitment proportionate? Can it be delivered within the timescales I’m tendering for? For instance, when we ask a question on fighting climate change, suppliers often detail they will be net zero in emissions by 2045 despite the contract only running for the next 4 years.
    • Are my commitments measurable? Vagueness cannot be scored, so avoid using words like “exploring” or “investigating”.
  • Less is more – don’t feel the need to fill all the word count allowed or provide endless commitments. Social value commitments are more likely to be delivered if they focus on quality and not quantity.

How do you think we can explore better innovative approaches within Social Value?

For me, social value provides a unique opportunity to deliver relevant innovation where it is needed most. NHS organisations are anchor institutions within their communities and are therefore well placed to positively affect both health inequalities and the wider determinants of health through social value delivery with suppliers.

To do this, the NHS must play its part in asking quality social value questions that seek relevant benefits. Suppliers must also play their part in taking the time to consider how they can maximise the benefit being sought in a relevant way.

Where the NHS and suppliers need to innovate the most is throughout contract management. By seeking to ensure that managing the social value commitments made is not resource intensive and done in a proactive and collaborative way, social value is much more likely to deliver the benefit for which it was embedded in the first place.

Action Sustainability:

When asked about her experience working with healthcare and sustainability, Vaishali believes that prioritising social value in healthcare and procurement decisions will not only unleash potentially transformative solutions now but also deliver strong, resilient health systems for the long term. The key is to understand and address the deep connections between health and social issues and challenges, as this will help maintain and improve the current and future health of people.

For consultancy support to discuss your social value and social sustainability strategy, book a call here.

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