Find out more about PtD’s central goal and why it matters

People that Deliver (PtD)’s central goal is professionalisation and in human resources (HR) for supply chain management (SCM) circles, this is a term that is often bandied about. But what does it mean and what does a professionalised workforce look like?

Starting with definitions

Type professionalisation into Google and the definition you’ll be offered is, “The action or process of giving an occupation, activity, or group professional qualities, typically by increasing training or raising required qualifications.”

PtD’s definition is very much aligned with this but goes further by insisting that professionalisation means having the right qualifications to perform supply chain roles and insists that SCM roles be defined with detailed job descriptions and categorised by designation.

Why is professionalisation needed?

The aim of the PtD coalition is to maximise health outcomes by improving access to health commodities and the vehicle crucial to enabling this access is the supply chain. Supply chains are responsible for commodities travelling from manufacturer to patient and have never taken so much of the limelight: during and since the COVID-19 pandemic their importance has been well publicised.

The supply chain workforce, which counts pharmacists, logisticians, and warehouse and transport personnel among many others, is responsible for managing supply chains, including forecasting, procuring and monitoring the supply of health commodities. Often in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) those performing supply chain tasks have not been trained to do so. PtD posits that health outcomes in LMICs will only continue to improve if the capacity and skills of the health SC workforce are developed and this is supported by WHO and others.

PtD’s vision of a world in which health supply chain workforces are empowered and equipped to perform their roles will lead to improved health outcomes and ultimately, professionalisation of the health SC workforce is one of the missing pieces as we strive towards universal health coverage. What’s more, professionalisation, we think, helps to create a sense of identity and prestige for the supply chain profession, attracting and retaining staff. 

How do we achieve professionalisation? 

In 2020 PtD published the Supply chain management (SCM) professionalisation framework, a roadmap to guide organisations and countries to professionalise their SC workforces. The framework is a set of global standards that detail career path, education and professional growth in health SCM. The library of competencies and designations is central to the framework and defines the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for people working in health SCM to fulfil their roles.  

The framework is important firstly because it brings stakeholders – health ministries, education institutions and others – together to develop joint plans. It also provides a step-by-step guide to help countries develop and implement a plan to professionalise SCM.

This year a number of countries – including the East African community (EAC) countries of Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar – have all taken steps to deepen their commitment to professionalisation and have placed PtD’s professionalisation framework at the centre of their plans.

What is PtD’s role in professionalisation? 

Through its SCM professionalisation hub, PtD is working with countries to professionalise the health supply chain management workforce. Alongside the EAC Regional Centre of Excellence for Vaccines, Immunization and Health Supply Chain Management (EAC RCE–VIHSCM) and the EAC secretariat, PtD organised the sensitisation meeting on professionalisation of the health supply chain in the EAC region in June. The purpose of the event was to inform EAC country representatives of the benefits of professionalisation and to detail the steps that are needed to achieve it.

Abdulhalim Mohammed Mzale, executive director of Zanzibar Central Medical Stores, attended the meeting: “I have observed the immense opportunities that other member states, like Rwanda and Kenya, have benefited from by taking steps toward professionalising their health supply chains. Witnessing their successes has inspired us to explore similar avenues for growth and improvement.” 

With the SCM professionalisation framework as the guiding structure, PtD has moved from advocating professionalisation to working with countries to implement their professionalisation plans. Countries are at different stages of implementation and some will soon be in a position to report results. Nigeria is one of the countries committed to professionalising its SC workforce.

Following the establishment of the implementation roadmap for the HR for SCM professionalisation project in Nigeria, Henrietta Bakura-Onyeneke from the Nigerian ministry’s National product supply chain management programme (NPSCMP), said, “Our journey to professionalisation is well underway. The Professionalisation framework will help us to sustainably standardise the competencies of the supply chain workforce that have been neglected and are begging for attention, and we’re confident this will catalyse the agenda for increased access to health products and services.”

Read more about professionalisation in East Africa and Nigeria.