Health-building framework scheme gets clean bill of health as Department of Health takes control of it

The government has committed itself to the future of Procure 21, the framework system for procuring healthcare facilities, after an independent review of its performance.

After the assessment, which was carried out by management consultant Symbia, control of Procure 21 has passed from the NHS to the Department of Health’s estates department.

Rob Smith, the DoH’s head of estates, held a summit meeting on Monday, at which he reassured the 11 consortiums on the Procure 21 framework that it would not be axed.

He added that workload would be sustained as the government’s capital spending on health had not been forecast to fall.

It also emerged at the meeting that civil servant Ray Stevenson would take over the day-to-day running of Procure 21 for the government after the departure of director Peter Woolliscroft before Christmas.

According to a source at one framework contractor, Smith said he would recommend to ministers a series of proposals to help improve the efficiency of the scheme.

These include letting contractors know more about the planned workload coming from NHS trusts. The source said: “We get emails asking us to express an interest in a scheme we didn’t know existed. Systems need to be in place whereby such schemes are on a forward order book.”

The source said Smith indicated that it would be spelled out to NHS trusts that Procure 21 was not going to be wound up. The source said: “Work dried up in the autumn as there was widespread uncertainty about the future of the scheme. Now the contractors and the government can confidently say that Procure 21 is here to stay.”

Peter Woolliscroft, former director of Procure 21, left his role after his five-year secondment period ended just before Christmas, and after the findings of the report were handed to the government. These findings have not been made public.

It was anticipated that the report would recommend cutting the 11-strong list of consortiums in half, after several firms had consistently failed to win work. However, it has emerged that the government may not be able legally to axe a consortium or contractor from the supply without mutual agreement.