The NHS tendering process can usually seem quite confusing, especially when it comes to figuring out where to start. Remember that the NHS supply chain is the central body that handles the procurement of healthcare products. They get orders from many suppliers across the country. There are specific areas of procurement in the NHS. This includes the goods that the NHS buys, such as equipment and medicines.
The NHS tendering process also purchases services. These are services provided by doctors, cleaners, and care workers. Besides, they are also involved in procurement of software solutions as well as data systems. As you can see, there are many things associated with the NHS Tenders. In this article, you will learn about the NHS tendering process.
Key stages in the NHS tendering process
Quite often, commissioners tend to release prior information notice (PIN). They release this notice in advance to warn suppliers of their intention to start the NHS procurement. It can be released between two and twelve months before the procurement. Remember that the lead time for the prior information notice can be less than 6 months. Sometimes, commissioners can request the potential bidders to express their interest. This can give the potential suppliers a lot of time to prepare their bids.
It’s worth noting that the NHS tendering process usually begins with a pre-qualification questionnaire which is also called a selection questionnaire. They use this to establish that the bidder is qualified, suitable, and can deliver the contract. In most cases, it can be split into potential supplier information, grounds for exclusion, and selection questions that cover technical capacity and financial standing.
This stage of the tendering process is utilized to filter out any potential suppliers that cannot deliver the contract. Unfortunately, there are many companies out there that bid for contracts that they can hardly deliver. This can be a waste of resources, time, and money. You can also waste the time of the buyer. Therefore, the NHS procurement process decided to implement a pre-qualification questionnaire to save time.
When a business passes the pre-qualification questionnaire, it can then be offered an invitation to bid. This is a crucial document that you need to pay special attention to. This document specifies how you can form the response giving word counts. Also, you should note that each invitation to bid can be different. It is usually a breakdown of the scoring for each question, procurement timetable, the deadline for clarification questions, deadline for responses, contract award date, and service commencement date.
The document can also have the contractual elements like the conditions of the contract as well as non-inclusion statements. It can also include the service specifications and technical questions that you need to answer. They are usually split into multiple sections, but this depends on the goods or services the NHS is purchasing. The page and word counts tend to be strict and answers should be between 500 and 2,000 words.
It is especially crucial that you pay attention to the specifications. This is because failure to meet the requirements can cost your bid. For example, if the buyer requires you to provide 2,000 words for a response, then make sure that you follow this instruction. And, failing to follow simple instructions can give an impression to the buyer you may not provide the services or goods they need.
Once the NHS scores the submissions, they can invite some bidders to an interview or given the chance to provide a presentation. A presentation is usually needed when it comes to the NHS tendering process that involves software solutions. And, commissioners may need to see you demonstrating the solution before you sign off the contract. Keep in mind that the presentation can contribute to a certain percentage of the overall marks.
Lastly, when the NHS identifies and chooses the preferred bidder, there is a cooling-off period. They offer it to allow unsuccessful suppliers to challenge the NHS tendering process, especially if they think there was something wrong. The tender outcome cannot be publicly announced before the expiry of the cooling-off period.
Evaluating the NHS tendering process
The NHS tendering process can be evaluated on both quality and price. More weight is usually allocated to quality, which can be at least 80 percent. The most economically advantageous tender usually wins the contract in the public sector tendering.
You should note that the most economically advantageous tender doesn’t imply that the cheapest bid can win the tender. Instead, it means that the buyer is looking at other things besides the price. The most economically advantageous tender can allow the buyer to give the contract based on several aspects of the tender submission. This may include accessibility, innovation, an ability to deliver timely, customer service, technical ability, proposed design, environmental benefits, and quality. The buyer can look at each of these aspects independently or in a mix.
That said, healthcare tenders are usually procured through framework agreements. A framework can be utilized to appoint several businesses to offer healthcare services for a couple of years. They can use these frameworks when the NHS wants to secure works, services, or goods. And, framework agreements are common in the NHS tendering process.
You should remember that the process is quite similar to average tendering contracts. They usually begin with a pre-qualification questionnaire and the successful bidders then move to the invitation to bid. The purchaser can offer a notice for suppliers who have to submit a tender to give their services. When you have submitted these, the buyer reviews them. They can decide to make a list of approved bidders. These bidders can then be given a place on the NHS framework.
You can find some frameworks that allow you to select a LOT. A LOT is usually a specific service or region. It can allow you to work together with other service providers on the project. Securing a framework contract tends to be lucrative and can place your business in a great position for future contracts. And, when the NHS has an available project, it can contact their pre-approved suppliers.