Consultants asked to assess the likely outcome of ditching framework.

The government called on legal firm Lovells to advise it on its legal obligations regarding the Procure 21 programme.
The now-defunct NHS Estates appointed the firm to assess the legal repercussions of scrapping the framework, according to an independent report by management consultant Symbia, a copy of which has been obtained by Building.

This suggests that the government wanted to scrap the framework, which has been heavily criticised by the contractors belonging to it. Many argued that the amount of work they won did not justify the £170,000 membership fee.

Lovells was also told to assess:

  • The legal consequences of reducing the number of contractors
  • The annual fee paid by each contractor
  • The extent of NHS Estates' ownership of Procure 21's intellectual property rights.
The news comes a week after Building revealed that the Symbia report had criticised Procure 21's previous leadership. The report recommended restarting the programme without the existing team, saying that "Procure 21 should continue, albeit in a very different form based around the Procure 21 framework agreement".

It criticised the previous leadership of Peter Woolliscroft and his management team.

The report said: "We found that the objectives of the programme were not met. The main cause of this was ineffective NHSE programme management and governance. The programme board did not provide strategic direction and leadership: the objectives were unclear and there were no specific targets set.

"There were few programme management disciplines and the programme board faded away in 2004. Not enough effort was put into culture change and communications that the programme needed as critical enabling factors."

It concluded: "We found no real commitment or drive for excellence within NHSE."

NHS Estates was abolished in September. Procure 21 is now within the remit of Rob Smith, the department's director of estates and facilities.

The department confirmed that it had appointed Sean Coughlan, an external programme manager, to work with the Procure 21 team and the contractors to put together an improvement programme.