NHS: Procurement

Department of Health written question – answered on 25th May 2016.

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Photo of Lord Crisp Lord Crisp Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure that the NHS supply chain does not include products that are produced with forced labour or modern versions of slavery.

Photo of Lord Crisp Lord Crisp Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the findings of the recent British Medical Association report In Good Hands: Tackling labour rights concerns in the manufacture of medical gloves.

Photo of Lord Prior of Brampton Lord Prior of Brampton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health

The Department has worked with its national contracting and logistics partner, NHS Supply Chain to develop a range of ethical procurement interventions that increase the scrutiny applied to suppliers, based on the risks presented.

All suppliers contracted by NHS Supply Chain are required to adhere to the NHS Supply Chain – Supplier Code of Conduct. A copy of the Code of Conduct is attached.

This code of conduct includes requirements for suppliers to work in line with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and makes specific reference to forced and compulsory labour. The Supplier Code of Conduct has been a contractual requirement of all Framework Agreements since 2009.

For categories of products where the risk of labour standards abuses has been assessed as high, by the nature of the manufacturing processes, employment practices or location, NHS Supply Chain require all suppliers to implement a Labour Standards Assurance System to specified standards.

NHS Supply Chain continually review the wider contract portfolio, and where appropriate, the Labour Standards Assurance System requirements will be applied to new contract areas.

Contract terms will require suppliers to implement and improve their Labour Standards Assurance System, in line with stipulated milestones, during the life of the framework agreement.

Suppliers are contractually required to evidence compliance by providing details of independent third party audits conducted on their Assurance System.

Where suppliers do not meet the specified standard within the stipulated timescales, their contract will be suspended in the first instance, and then terminated if remediation actions are not undertaken in a suitably timely manner.

NHS Supply Chain provides support for suppliers required to implement a labour standards assurance system with webinars that provide access to expert support and capability building material.

In relation to the British Medical Association (BMA) report In Good Hands, all suppliers awarded on the current Framework Agreement for Examination and Sterile Surgical Gloves are subject to the NHS Supply Chain Code of Conduct and contractual requirements to operate a Labour Standards Assurance System.

Since the framework agreement launched in December 2015, a webinar workshop has been held with all suppliers to explain the Labour Standards Assurance System and implications of the Modern Slavery Act.

Of the manufacturers named in the BMA report, two are currently awarded under the NHS Supply Chain national framework agreement for medical gloves.

In both cases the Department in conjunction with NHS Supply Chain has investigated the allegations thoroughly by working with specialist independent third party audit bodies, who have undertaken assessments at the identified facilities.

Audit findings have not identified any specific cases of slavery or human trafficking, or any serious systemic abuses of worker or human rights, however, improvements in management procedures, communications and training were recommended to reduce the potential for abuses to arise.

Both suppliers have acknowledged these findings and have agreed actions, as part of contractual remediation plans, to address these.

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