Leaked independent review of the Procure 21 framework criticises management team at NHS Estates

The independent report into the government's healthcare framework Procure 21 has heavily criticised the management at NHS Estates, it emerged this week.

Briefing documents obtained by Building indicate that the Symbia review, which has not yet been published, criticises the previous leadership of Peter Woolliscroft and makes the following points:

  • That there was ineffective programme management and governance by NHS Estates
  • That an external professional programme manager be brought in to sort out the programme
  • That an audit should be done to work out how best to spend the monthly contributions from the 11 consortiums on the framework
  • That contractors should have a say in how their money was spent.
The Department of Health revealed to Building that the report was "critical of a number of areas and highlighted shortcomings in some detail".

In a statement, the DoH said: "It found that the objectives of the programme were not being achieved as had been hoped, even though there were some notable successes.

Woolliscroft said: "I can't comment at this stage as I've not see the report yet."

Woolliscroft left Procure 21 before Christmas after disagreeing with the DoH over the commissioning of the Symbia report.

It is understood that the Procure 21 team was unhappy that the report has been written and published without sufficient consultation. One source close to the team said: "The team had no chance to validate the report."

The briefing document implies that Symbia recommended restarting the programme without the existing Procure 21 team.

But the DoH said: "The report set out a number of options, of which this was one. After consideration, the DoH decided to continue the Procure 21 programme with the existing team, which has gained expertise and knowledge, and indeed have the trust of the contractors.

"The DoH considered that the team was best placed to maintain all that is good in the programme and to implement the improvements to it."

The report identified shortcomings in the management of Procure 21, backing up similar criticisms by consortiums on the scheme.

NHS Estates was abolished in September 2005 as part of the DoH's review of arm's length bodies. 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.

The DoH said it had not yet decided who would carry out the audit.

On contractor payments, it said: "It has already been agreed that the private contractors will be consulted as to the use to which their payments will be put."