While health service procurement professionals pore over their new NHS supply chain model overviews, noting the implications of last month’s Budget £20bn cash injection over the coming five years, Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, has set the cat among the pigeons by describing his plans to make NHS procurement more flexible.

During a discussion at the GovTech Summit in Paris on Tuesday, exploring how governments can improve their engagement of start-ups to innovate and secure cutting-edge tech, Mr Hancock said that he wanted to shift priorities away from setting arbitrary contracts and implementing fixed processes. Asked how his department would measure successful innovation, Mr Hancock said: “When I am no longer the world’s largest owner of fax machines. I mean that is a really, really, really, early step, but it’s still hard.” He was referring to a recent survey from the Royal College of Surgeons, which found 9,000 fax machines still in use across NHS England.

Hancock, a former digital minister, was appointed to his new role in July and has championed the need for new technology to improve the health service. Acknowledging previous failed attempts at NHS modernisation, he said he would bring his extensive experience of digitisation to bear on the service. He added: “Because I am able to say to everybody in the system and indeed to anyone in this audience: “If you have an idea for the improvement of the health system in the UK from use of technology, we want to hear from you, we want to try it, we want to see it work.”

Fellow panellist and NHS doctor, Stephanie Eltz, who founded the healthcare start-up ‘Doctify’ (an app connecting patients to doctors) praised Mr Hancock for his enthusiasm for start-ups and digital technology. It seems certain for professionals in NHS procurement and supply chain jobs that they will need to include more start-ups in their supply chains.

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