Sharing Healthcare Procurement Best Practice: P4H

John Swords

While healthcare authorities across the UK’s devolved nations differ in structure and funding, they face the common challenges of budget cuts and aging populations. Suggesting how these challenges can be tackled is Head of Procurement in the Health Service Executive Ireland, John Swords. Mr Swords will be speaking at the P4H conference on 13 July, at the NEC Birmingham. BiP Solutions journalist Julie Shennan heard some of his insights ahead of the conference.


John Swords was appointed Head of Procurement in the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2010. His 30-year career in HSE has seen him work both in its Finance and Procurement departments. Now Mr Swords is responsible for the strategic operational development and management of all procurement-related activity in the HSE.

The Problem

In his role, Mr Swords examines ways of addressing Ireland’s decreasing health budget and aging population, a combination which puts strain on healthcare resources.

He said: “The money being invested into health sector procurement is shrinking while the demand for services is growing, so we have to create efficiencies that will reduce costs and make services sustainable.”

The Solution

Once efficient procurement models are found, Mr Swords explained they must be translated into benefits for the patient, monitored and communicated, so that stakeholders understand their value and support their implementation.

He said: “If we manage to positively impact the patient experience, then we can use this experience to convince senior management to invest time and effort into procurement change.”

Best Practice Example

Mr Swords is doing just that while working on Ireland’s ‘One Voice’ project. This project involves a three-year HSE Procurement Plan based around improving its sourcing, logistics and systems while showing the benefits they will bring to front line services.

The Head of Procurement said: “Misconceptions about procurement are still barriers when it comes to efficient supply chains. But I think that in the future people will have a better idea of the real impact healthcare procurement has on patients.”

Future Forecast

Continuing to look to the future, Mr Swords predicted that healthcare will continue to focus on collaborative solutions.

He said: “I think the future of healthcare will involve central solutions, but delivering them at a more local or regional level.”

This means public and private sector stakeholders working more closely together towards the same goals.

Mr Swords explained: “Some of the procurement decisions that need to be made can’t be, because we haven’t the harmony between public sector and third sector health organisations.

“The biggest challenge that we face in the health sector is that we are mandated to be a single entity, but we are not there yet; so we have to change the way we work. “


Mr Swords will be on hand to discuss this and many more issues, at P4H following his keynote speech.

He said: “We want people to know that the Health Service Executive is open for business.”

P4H will allow delegates to share pearls of wisdom through its Buyer Engagement Village, Product Showcase Exhibition and Collaboration Zones, Keynote Arena, Best Practice Case Study Zone and Procurement Advice Hub.

Meanwhile, e-procurement products and services will be demonstrated live on the P4H conference floor, giving guidance to those seeking to boost their business, while e-procurement will also be the focus of one of the Training Zones.

In addition, the Buyer Skills Development, Supplier and Best Practice Case Study Training Zones will offer CPD certified sessions to reinforce and expand on the advice and ideas available throughout P4H.

Don’t miss your chance to attend.


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