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NHS Supply Chain welcomes the release of DEFRA’s ‘Plan for Public Procurement’.

Tuesday 29 July 2014


NHS Supply Chain welcomes the publication of DEFRA’s ‘Plan for Public Procurement.’ Stephanie Gibney, Ethical and Sustainability Manager at NHS Supply Chain explains, “We have a commitment to ‘responsible nutrition and responsible food sourcing’ within our Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2016. We also have a commitment to promote Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering and encourage uptake with NHS Trusts as one of the largest suppliers of food to the NHS.”

NHS Supply Chain has a wide variety of food framework agreements within their portfolio which are essentially food procurement only and do not have a service provision. Food sales are £155m annually (including £38m for the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme which we run on behalf of the Department of Health) and as a major supplier of food to the NHS, NHS Supply Chain account’s for approximately 25% of NHS Trust food supplies.

SMEs currently represent 28%1 of NHS Supply Chain’s sales and in the food category there is already a strong participation from local and regional SMEs supplying to trusts in their area.

NHS Supply Chain has established a network of approximately 30 regional and local SMEs delivering local sourced fresh produce to hospitals in their vicinity through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Framework. NHS Supply Chain also has a framework agreement in place for meat and poultry with a similar number of regional SMEs and a milk, dairy and bread framework agreement with a network of over 20 SMEs supplying these products to hospitals.

Sustainability and food frameworks

NHS Supply Chain food frameworks are about delivering value to the NHS and enhancing sustainability and nutritional credentials of food procured where relevant. “Our food contracts are national frameworks which are multi supplier and provide comprehensive choice to the NHS with a good geographical spread of awards enabling local to trust supply where possible (i.e. within a 50 mile radius of the hospital) thereby reducing food miles. An increasing number of NHS Trusts prefer to work with local, SME and more customer-focussed suppliers,” says Rachel Repper, Trading Director, NHS Supply Chain Business Development.

All NHS Supply Chain food contracts are underpinned by a technical services contract through STS. STS ensure our food framework agreements are covered by an audit process that provides our customer base with due diligence with regard to food safety. Food suppliers cannot supply trusts under NHS Supply Chain frameworks without having a valid NHS Code of Practice accreditation.

A key element of the toolkit within the ‘Plan for Public Procurement’ is the adoption of Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering (GBSF).

“Although not mandated to adopt GBSF NHS Supply Chain has a strong commitment to support the Government Buying Standards in the letting of our contracts, through our supplier relationships and in our engagement with NHS customers. This support has involved working with our suppliers to understand levels of compliance with GBSF, making the information visible and transparent to our customers so it can inform their procurement decision and encouraging uptake of products which support GBSF as a way of delivering sustainable value to the NHS,” explains Stephanie Gibney. “The ‘Plan for Public Procurement’ builds on existing engagement with our food suppliers on GBSF and will only enhance the importance of this on-going piece of work.”

The ‘Plan for Public Procurement’ also complements the work of the Hospital Food Standards Panel which NHS Supply Chain have been a part of through the expert reference group on Sustainability, Food Waste and Animal Welfare.

The Balanced Scorecard

NHS Supply Chain welcomes the balanced scorecard as a useful tool which enables priority themes to be grouped together and built into the procurement decision where relevant. The revised Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering released as part of the ‘Plan for Public Procurement’ will be a focus for our future supplier engagement and aligns with our objectives.

“NHS Supply Chain already balances cost against more complex sustainability criteria but we do echo that a greater focus on sustainability is what our NHS customers are asking for,” says Rachel Repper.

A recent consultation group of NHS Trusts convened as part of the pre-market engagement on the tender for ‘Ready Prepared Meals’ highlighted that many Trusts would like wider sustainability issues to be a substantial part of award criteria. NHS Supply Chain are therefore looking to incorporate aspects of the balanced scorecard into the forthcoming tender which will enable an award which takes into account supplier activity around some of the priority themes for Ready Prepared Meals (food authenticity and traceability, waste minimisation, food provenance, seasonality, resource efficiency, nutrition and ethical trade).

This will enable NHS Supply Chain to score suppliers based on the priority themes or recognise that they are working towards higher standards.


“We recognise that we are an important link between food producers, suppliers and NHS hospitals. Our priority for food is a portfolio of framework agreements compliant with European regulations which deliver sustainable value to the NHS, “says Rachel Repper.

“NHS Supply Chain will continue to work with suppliers to improve the food offered on our frameworks and to drive GBSF compliance,” says Stephanie Gibney. On NHS Supply Chain frameworks, Trusts can find suppliers that can help them procure to GBSF standards and therefore improve their PLACE scores.

“Our current approach with suppliers on GBSF is voluntary but we will be stepping this up with supplier events and workshops over the next 12 months as new food frameworks launch,” says Rachel Repper.

1. For 12 months from May 2013 to April 2014.


Media enquiries:

Jennie Brice
07714 043391

Joanna Morrison
07776 457201

Notes to editors

About NHS Supply Chain

Follow us on Twitter: @NHSSupplyChain

NHS Supply Chain is operated by DHL as Agent of the NHS Business Services Authority. It supports the National Health Service (NHS) and other healthcare organisations in England and Wales by providing end to end supply chain solutions.

The organisation was formed in 2006 from the NHS Logistics Authority and parts of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (NHS PASA). NHS Supply Chain aims to provide over £1 billion of savings to the NHS by 2016.

NHS Supply Chain manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products and food for over 1,000 NHS trusts and healthcare organisations. It provides a single point of access to over 346,000 nationally available, transactable lines ranging from bandages to sutures, from gloves to implants, and even diagnostic equipment such as MRI scanners.

Its management of the procurement process negates an NHS organisation’s need to tender through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Costs can also be reduced through its one-route solution that consolidates all products onto one invoice and delivery.

To ensure that its products are fit for today’s healthcare market, NHS Supply Chain works with suppliers of all sizes to ensure its range embraces high quality and innovative products; and engages with clinicians, the Department of Health and academic institutions to make sure that it is aware of the current requirements and latest developments in clinical practice.

NHS Supply Chain’s product areas include:

  • Theatres
  • Dental
  • Audiology
  • Catering, including food
  • Infection control
  • Orthopaedics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Capital equipment, including finance and maintenance.

Based in Alfreton, Derbyshire, UK, the business employs over 2,400 staff across seven sites.

Delivering value to the NHS