The Association provides training events and educational seminars, sponsors awards and hosts two high-profile annual conferences.
The governance of the Association rests with the board of Trustees. The Executive runs the day to day business of the Association supported by a National Council of Regional Coordinators , Specialist Area Coordinators and National representatives from across the U.K.
HCSA is a registered charity in the UK, is entirely self-financed through a combination of income from conferences, seminars, other training events and advertising.
Membership is open to all procurement and supply professionals within the healthcare sector in the UK. We do not currently offer membership to providers of products and services to the healthcare industry. We do however, welcome their attendance and involvement at some of our annual events.
The Health Care Supply Association is affiliated with the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS).
The NHS buys a large amount of goods and services to enable it to run from day to day. This is called procurement. The NHS’s procurement systems have been put under enormous pressure during the health crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has created unprecedented levels of demand for some goods and services.
The main goods the NHS buys are equipment and medicines. In response to the pandemic, this equipment has included ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) – gloves, aprons, surgical masks, eye protection and protective gowns. According to government guidance, all health and social care workers treating coronavirus patients must wear PPE. 
The main service the NHS buys is healthcare. This includes everything from planned operations and emergency care through to GP and community services. The NHS also buys other services, such as cleaning, facilities management and IT for its hospitals and other buildings. NHS bodies mostly buy services from other NHS bodies, but some are delivered by the private and voluntary sector (which account for 7.3% of overall Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spending). 
DHSC spent around £70bn on procurement in 2018/19, up from £68.3bn the previous year.  The vast majority of this is NHS spending. Health is by far the biggest area of government procurement spending; it is more than three times larger than defence spending, the next largest area. Most NHS procurement spending goes on healthcare, with around £18bn on medicine and nearly £6bn per year on ‘hospital consumables’ which include gloves and syringes. 
The NHS is made up of a complex patchwork of organisations.  In England, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) purchase services locally for each area, which are delivered by hospitals, GP surgeries or other service providers. There are over 200 CCGs in England. (In the devolved administrations, the structure is similar.)
Most goods are bulk-purchased centrally and distributed to providers by NHS Supply Chain, which was established in 2016. Previously most goods were bought locally by hospitals and other health providers, but a government review found large inefficiencies as organisations paid variable prices for the same product.  NHS Supply Chain now manages more than 4.5m orders a year – and aims to carry out 80% of all NHS purchases by volume by 2022.  Medicines are procured through a separate system of regional pharmacy purchasing groups.
Responsibility for procurement is split between several organisations:
NHS England has taken on CCGs’ powers to purchase services.  This allows it to buy private sector beds on block and gives it greater ability to support the provision of services across the NHS during the crisis. CCGs will continue to purchase services as well.
The Cabinet Office has issued guidance on emergency procurement which sets out the routes government bodies can take to access goods rapidly, such as direct award (meaning no competition) and accelerated procedures. 
Many hospitals and care providers have experienced (and continue to experience) severe shortages of PPE during the coronavirus pandemic, making conditions unsafe for staff. There have been reports of staff resorting to using homemade PPE. The Royal College of Nursing has advised nurses to refuse to treat patients “as a last resort” if they cannot access the necessary equipment.
The main reason for the shortages is that NHS Supply Chain has been unable to meet unprecedented levels of demand. Healthcare staff have to wear up to five different pieces of PPE and may need to change these four times per shift. DHSC has not released usage figures but the BBC has reported that one hospital trust is using 72,000 pieces of PPE per day.  Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has said demand is “in the billions per month”. 
There appear to be several problems with preparations, supply and distribution:
The government has acknowledged supply shortages. On 15 April, Hancock issued a new PPE plan, setting out measures on guidance, distribution and future supply to ensure “everyone should get the PPE they need”.  On 19 April, DHSC announced it had brought in Paul Deighton, former CEO of the body that organised the Olympics, to oversee PPE procurement.
The NHS has never had to cope with a public health crisis on this scale before. The main problems identified with NHS procurement in recent government reviews have been inefficiencies and poor procurement capability.  Recent Institute for Government research found that procurement capability in the NHS is still seen by civil servants as a weakness.
Many other countries’ health systems are facing procurement problems given the unprecedented spread and severity of the coronavirus pandemic. How the NHS’s procurement systems have performed – and the procurement assumptions made in the government’s pandemic planning – will be important questions in a future public inquiry into government’s handling of coronavirus.