Objectives The successful management of outsourced services is a skill which is increasingly required in the UK National Health Service (NHS). However, it is not something that is widely taught and contract managers tend to operate singly and in isolation. A group has been created in SE England to share expertise and knowledge in contract managing outsourced outpatient services in hospital pharmacies. The initial activities of this group may be useful to others and are shared in this article.
Methods A group of contract managers of outsourced outpatient services in London, East of England and Thames Valley and Wessex has been created to share expertise and knowledge. The group members come from trusts in the three regions and either manage an existing service or are in the process of letting a contract. One of the sites manages a subsidiary company (ie, owned by the trust) which runs the outpatient services separately to the trust pharmacy service. The group identified a series of tasks which could usefully be undertaken collectively to compare service provision, costs and contract management techniques (eg, performance indicators).
Results The initial findings of the group are detailed in the report. These are:
▸ Nature and type of services.
▸ Performance indicators.
▸ Staffing and support requirements.
▸ Additional delivery services.
▸ Issues and risks log.
▸ Dealing with payment by results excluded medicines and patient access schemes.
▸ Collection of prescription charges.
▸ Preparing a business case.
Conclusions The operation of the group has allowed sharing of information and expertise within the NHS. It has been particularly useful for centres about to start a service. More work needs to be done, particularly on performance indicators but both the NHS and the contractors appreciate a collective approach with the reduction in variation, costs and risk that this entails. Such an approach has been forced on the NHS by the failures in the homecare market and it seems logical to apply the lessons from the management of one outsourced service to another.
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