New online resource for SMEs looking to increase public sector contracts

An expert panel of entrepreneurs, CEOs and senior NHS procurement officials are launching an online resource this Thursday (3rd March 2016) called Further, Faster: Accelerating the pace of digitising the NHS.

The resource, available at digitisinghealthcare.com, seeks to break down the barriers for SMEs and the NHS and create opportunities for future collaboration.

The site, funded by Guy's and St Thomas' Charity and created by ZPB Associates, contains practical insights and recommendations for both sides. This includes key advice from the centre of the healthcare sector including NHS England, the Health and Social Care Information Centre and the Office for Life Sciences.

This resource comes after the NHS was allocated £1 billion in the November 2015 Budget to spend on technology over the next five years in its bid to become a digitally-enabled health service. While this creates opportunities for SME collaboration, there are also new barriers surrounding the speed of innovation adoption within the health sector.

NHS Logo

To solve this, health tech innovators have contributed to this continually evolving website, compiling tips for SMEs who want to work with the NHS, as well as advice and lessons for NHS boards and leadership teams who are looking to adopt my health tech solutions. The site has case studies, insights and opinions pieces from SMEs who have learned the hard way and put forward their recommendations on topics such as procurement, relationship-building and collaboration.

The Government has set an overall target of 25% procurement spend with SMEs, with the Department of Health's SME Action Plan committed to an 18% target of their own. An FOI request sent to all NHS trusts, asking how much they were spending with SMEs revealed that very few gather this data, making it impossible to measure increases in the number of contracts going to SMEs.

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ZPB's chief executive, Zoe Bedford, said:

"Accelerating the adoption and spread of technology-based innovation is as much a necessity for the financial health of the system as it is for improving health. We are convinced of the crucial role small and medium size tech businesses can play in helping to create an NHS fit for the demands of 21st century patients, citizens and employees.  It is frustrating that some of the best British companies are looking to relocate abroad as they've found the NHS environment too challenging.

"This online resource is packed with hard won practical advice and examples from both SMEs and the NHS on how they have navigated the system and broken down barriers to embed new innovation which makes a difference."

Head of Innovation and Research at Kent Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network, Rob Berry, said:

"Good deals between the NHS and SMEs will always depend on both parties working together to recognise and manage some inevitable tensions.

"With digital technologies there are major opportunities to re-invent, adjust or tailor to suit the local context, without diminishing the potential benefits. Therefore there are major opportunities to collaborate."

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