What’s Next?

Last week’s election result came as something of a shock for most pollsters. For most people working in the NHS, as in all public services, a period of uncertainty was anticipated while a new government was formed – a process which looked like it would take some time. Instead, the Conservatives have a clear mandate to implement their manifesto, including commitments to the NHS.

The commercial framework that the NHS operates within is therefore unlikely to change significantly. Pieces of work will continue to be tendered for through the European tendering process, and there will be no assumption that NHS organisations have a ‘most favoured bidder’ status.

To this point, NHS organisations have not won as many contracts a might be expected. After all, the NHS has many structural advantages over private firms – incumbency, the ability to drawn on other parts of the service, staff loyalty and a pre-existing relationship with commissioners.

In another sense, it is not surprising. Private sector firms are sales organisations, with the best spending money on commercial teams, marketing teams, bid writing teams and more. The NHS doesn’t and shouldn’t spend large sums on these things. That being so, there is a gap between having great services, but not being great at selling them.

There are different solutions to that problem. Sales (or the euphemistic ‘business development’) teams can be created, and bid management put in place. With a typical Community Trust bidding for 12-15 tenders a year, however, this is a large commitment. And, frankly, these teams are hard to create and manage, especially when the primary focus of the organisation is improving patient care, not recruiting and running commercial teams.

An alternative is to source external support. Obviously we think that this is an excellent route to go down! However, beware – make sure you know that the company you are partnering with truly knows the NHS. You don’t want to spending your whole time explaining the difference between an ECG and a CCG.

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