The NHS is the largest procurer of medical products in the world. It has a huge amount of leverage to be a force for good when it comes to ethical procurement, and I believe that it should use this leverage.
NHS procurement policies should consider the origins of the goods it purchases and exclude suppliers where there is sufficient evidence of human rights violations in any of their supply chains.
I supported a House of Lords amendment to the Health and Care Bill that would have required Ministers to ensure that health service procurement does not violate the UK’s obligations under the CPPCG. The amendment sought to apply a human rights threshold to NHS procurement, making it illegal for the Government to procure equipment from any regions in the world where it believes there to be a “serious risk of genocide”.
The Health Minister said that the Health and Care Bill was not the “right legislative vehicle” for introducing those changes. Ministers said that new rules will be outlined in the forthcoming procurement Bill, which will cover all Government procurement and strengthen the ability of public sector bodies to exclude suppliers that have a history of misconduct, including forced labour.
Although the Government rejected the Lords’ amendment, it introduced a separate amendment placing a duty on the Health Secretary to carry out a review into the risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place in NHS supply chains.
The Health Minister said that the review will send a signal that the NHS will not tolerate human rights abuses in its supply chains, and will incentivise providers to revise their practices. This is of course welcome, however, it doesn’t address the issue of genocide.
If we are serious about being ‘global Britain’ and a force for good in the world, we need to act as such and demonstrate our commitment under the CPPCG in health service procurement. It is therefore disappointing that the Government rejected the Lords’ amendment to the Health and Care Bill relating to genocide.
However, I can assure you that my Opposition Colleagues and I will raise this issue again when the Procurement Bill is put before Parliament and remind the Government that they themselves said that this would be the correct legislative vehicle for change.