Arrangements for Procurement of Medicines and Pharmaceutical Products and Services

Tim Root, Assistant Head, NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service, Specialist Pharmacy ServicePublished

Medicines procurement in England is managed through 10 regional pharmacy purchasing groups with each having a regional pharmacy procurement specialist (RPPS)

Procurement regions and purchasing groups

England has 10 Regional pharmacy purchasing groups and each group has a Regional Pharmacy Procurement Specialist (RPPS).

The Regional pharmacy purchasing groups exist within historical boundaries which relate to the former Strategic Health Authority areas.

Procurement regions

The Regional pharmacy purchasing groups form 4 procurement regions:

  • North or England (NOE)
  • Midlands and East (MAE)
  • London
  • South of England (SOFE)

These procurement regions are involved in the Tranche frameworks.

Purchasing groups

Each procurement region has associated pharmacy purchasing groups and is allocated a CMU buying group code.  The 6 buying groups (DNW, DNE, DCE, DLN, DLS and DSW) are the basis for generic medicine framework tenders.

North or England (NOE)

The NOE purchasing groups and CMU codes (shown in brackets) are:

  • North West (DNW)
  • North East (DNE)
  • Yorkshire; Humber (DNE)

Midlands and East (MAE)

The MAE purchasing groups and CMU codes (shown in brackets) are:

  • East Midlands (DCE)
  • West Midlands (DCE)
  • East of England (DLN)


London has two CMU buying group codes: DLN and DLS.

South of England (SOFE)

The SOFE purchasing groups and CMU codes (shown in brackets) are:

  • South East Coast (DLS)
  • South West (DSW)
  • Thames Valley & Wessex (DSW)

Regional Pharmacy Procurement Specialists (RPPS)

The RPPS supports hospital Trusts in their Region and facilitates networking among Trust medicine procurement leads.

The role of the RPPS

RPPS functions includes responsibility for ensuring the interests and requirements of Trusts are represented from planning and design of the medicine tender through to contract award and implementation.

The role drives engagement with contracting processes and a collaborative approach to tackling other issues such as shortages, ecommerce and concerns about supplier performance.

Each RPPS for England is a member of the National Pharmacy Procurement Specialists Committee (NPPSC) along with a representative from Scotland and Wales. This committee forms a further link into SPS, of which procurement is a functional group.


Tenders in England are managed by the CMU across the pharmacy purchasing groups.

The groups are configured to present sufficiently high usage volumes to attract the best prices for both branded and generic medicines.

The configurations are designed to maintain continuity of supply and avoid monopolies.


Trusts are responsible for implementation of the contracts after award.

Authorised NHS pharmacy staff can view all details of the contracts including price via the CMU web catalogue.

When available, details of packaging and labelling of awarded lines are submitted for assessment by an NHS Quality Assurance (QA) team. QA reports are available to NHS pharmacy staff (authorisation and registration required).