Telecare Soapbox: Let’s deal with the inequalities of the Framework Agreement (UK)

Regular Telecare Aware readers will know our long-standing general concern about the market-distorting effect of the UK Government’s Telecare, Telehealth and Telecoaching Framework Agreement for procuring such services. John Guyatt, Director of Solutions4Health spells out what that means from the perspective of a relatively new company in the field.

I was recently preparing a bid for a telehealth service being commissioned in the next few months, when I realised that the exercise only allowed bids from companies already in the Government’s framework agreement.

We’ve been active with products in the telehealth business for the past 18 months, but we are excluded because we weren’t providing telehealth solutions when this framework agreement was first introduced about three years ago.

That’s several generations in the technology world and therefore raises a number of issues…

  • It does tax payers a disservice in not considering newer/younger companies that are, by their nature, typically more innovative in the provision of services or products.
  • It feels very ‘anti-competitive’. I’m sure we are not alone in believing that we could provide better ‘value-for-money’ for the tax payer.
  • Our only real chance to compete is partnering with an incumbent organisation, with the obvious disadvantage of adding margins and unnecessary costs to the solution, compromising ‘value-for-money’ for the tax payer.

Worse still, the first of two one-year extensions has just been confirmed, and it could be extended again 12 months from now! The original framework was set up with possible changes in the market in mind, hence the 2+1+1 method, rather than a longer framework – little consolation to companies like Solutions4Health, unable to bid because of an out-dated framework agreement.

We’re an innovative provider of healthcare and telehealth services delivered to the population on behalf of the NHS. We’re valued by PCTs/CCGs for delivering smoking cessation and chronic disease self-management programmes to the hardly reached groups in the UK, helping to reduce health inequalities across the UK.

The ‘3 Million Lives’ campaign is really starting to make a difference to stakeholders across the country – something that we’re particularly pleased about for the sake of the telehealth, teleconsultation and telemedicine sectors.

Now we need the support of the ‘3 Million Lives’ and, for the broader telecare and telehealth industry, the TSA to help its members get access to the business opportunities – to the benefit of all.

I know that the TSA has been in discussions with the Government’s procurement service – but their (understandable) view is that an “approved list” offers a potential cost saving for those using the framework. The wider Innovation Health and Wealth initiative, which includes 3millionlives’ input, recognises that streamlined and efficient procurement is key to speedy implementation of innovation in the NHS. We look forward to its report in December, outlining how procurement can be changed.

The replacement for the existing procurement framework needs to be much more flexible, especially in a rapidly changing technology environment such as telehealth. 3millionlives is committed to a partnership with the full range of industry, and I encourage it to think about ways to recognise and highlight innovation from any part of the industry – large, small, established and new.

Meanwhile, there seem to be no ‘quick wins’ that would open the doors to companies like ours.

How frustrating is that?

John Guyatt
7 October 2012

Solutions 4 Health is a provider of technology-led, community-based healthcare services, including chronic disease self-management, smoking cessation, health checks, coronary heart disease prevention and weight management, underpinned by its iTelehealth platform.

Categories: Soapbox.

Comments

  1. RAYMOND GREGORY

    Alas the Government have put framework agreements in place for mobile telephones and fixed line telephone contracts. The big boys are on both of these framework agreements excluding small and medium size contracts worth from as little as £50,000 per annum. We cannot even get the crumbs from the table now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *