Customer Q&A with David Lawson

01 February 2022 by Mat Oram

Q&A with David Lawson, Chief Procurement Officer, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Could you start by giving me a bit of background on you and your role?

My Name is David Lawson, and I’m the Chief Procurement Officer for Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT), and we host the procurement shared service, SmartTogether, which means that we are responsible for procurement and supply chain management at Guy’s and St Thomas’, Lewisham and Greenwich, Great Ormond Street and South London Maudsley Mental NHS Trust.

What does your average day look like?

In my role, I’m not only supporting GSTT, I am responsible for three other trusts across South London, as well working with South East London ICS. In addition, I work with NHS London, to support them with what they call ‘the Anchor Delivery Group’, which centres around social value elements such as sustainability and post covid-econmic recovery. With so much going on, for me, a typical day can be quite varied, working on different projects and initiatives for different trusts, but also supporting at an ICS and regional level.

What is unique about the work you do? 

As part of our service model, we have an off-site logistics centre — we call it ‘the supply chain hub’. There are more than 40,000 inbound truck deliveries into GSTT each year, which equates to a delivery every three minutes, and we found that our loading bays were struggling to cope. By having our own off-site logistics centre, we are better able to control our inbound processes and free up on-site space. We also have an in-house wholesaler to enable a same day just-in-time model for our Main Theatres, and we do a lot of work to improve the environmental impact of procurement, such as shipping deliveries via riverboat and electric vehicles. As a Trust we also focused on developing industry partnerships from the major medical device suppliers to new start-ups to support the Trust develop our clinical services and position the Trust as a centre of innovation. 

What is the significance of sustainability in the work you do?

We are based in South East London, and addressing issues such as economic deprivation and air quality are our key>drivers; we want to make a positive impact and improve population health for the local community. This has undoubtedly influenced some of the decisions we have made, particularly in terms of supply chain, where we have been proactive in establishing an off-site logistics centre and adopting electric vehicles to ship deliveries. As well as this, we are also trying to move away from single-use items. For example, our cardiac teams have been trailing reusable catheters; the theatre team are trailing reusable trays; and our anaesthetic team is about to run a pilot to capture atmospheric gases, which on their own account for around 2% of the NHS’ carbon footprint.

For me, sustainability is interesting because it presents a real opportunity to innovate, challenge the status quo, and work with our clinical teams and suppliers in a different way beyond simply unit cost.

What new sustainability projects are you working on at the moment?

We are currently looking into ways of accelerating some of our sustainability initiatives by using carbon offsetting as a way of funding. Using local government as an example, in London, developers have to provide a carbon offsetting levy to local boroughs, who can allocate budget depending on the sustainability of the overall project. If we can start to establish some precedents for the work we are doing, we are hoping to use carbon offsetting as a mechanism to fund our various initiatives, which will encourage more NHS trusts to adopt a similar process.

What are the main challenges in your role?

The main challenge is the intensity of running multiple projects at the same time. Right now, we are working with trusts that are dealing with high levels of COVID–19 cases, managing major transformation projects, and facing pressure to clear elective activity. Balancing these priorities can be extremely difficult. 

How long have you been working with AdviseInc?

I’ve been working with AdviseInc since they set up the national price benchmarking tool. Since then, our relationship has broadened, and we are now using Procurement Dashboard, Procurement Dashboard Plus and Catalogue Check, to help us to understand spend categories and contract management in more detail.

What would you say to other NHS organisations that are considering working with AdviseInc?

If you’re looking for more than just a system, and you want proactive support and insights, then working with AdviseInc is a no-brainer. They provide the complete package — a true collaborative service.

Do you think procurement data and analytics are used effectively across the NHS?

Not always. There is a lot of variation across the NHS in terms of digital maturity. Some hospitals have full visibility of their data, they have good inventory management systems, and high-levels of purchase order compliance. But equally, the hospital next door might have limited systems in place, high levels of non-compliance and low levels of investment in data and analytics. With the move to an integrated model of care, there is a great opportunity for AdviseInc to support collaborative working between local Trusts and across like-minded ICS groups.

Have you been involved with the development of Control Tower?

Yes. We began speaking with AdviseInc about the concept last year, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how it turns out. One of the biggest challenges with the move to ICSs will be managing so many different systems, and by pulling everything into one place, Control Tower will ensure that we can maintain a level of simplicity, and good visibility. In many ways, the solution is quite simple: it will provide clarity and visibility over performance, so that ICSs can drive improvements as appropriate.

How do you see your relationship with AdviseInc evolving?

I see the relationship evolving to more of a consultative, supporting role. If you look at some of the NHS procurement trends, given the lack of capital, there has been an acceleration of managed service contracts, covering high-cost areas. We are not buying products; we are buying services. So, I think our relationship with AdviseInc will evolve in line with the evolution of our requirements to support us where necessary.

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