New telecare and telehealth purchasing framework to stitch up the UK market for four years

As flagged up in TTA last October, [start here and follow the links back] The Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) has now issued a tender for a telehealth and telecare systems framework agreement. It will run for four years and comprises three ‘lots’:

  1. A single online shop for products (and possibly services): “products included in the catalogue can be updated, increased or revised at any time in response to innovations in the market place and evolving client needs”
  2. Managed service provision: “a list of proven, specialist suppliers who are able to undertake this for [service commissioners]. This may include some or all of: service user assessment, equipment supply, service monitoring, and response…we intend to restrict the number of suppliers…to approximately 6[Emphasis ours]
  3. Consultancy services: “a list of suitably experienced consultants who are able to provide specialist advice to commissioners on the topics of telecare and telehealth”

Editorial comment

The EU and UK laws on tendering for supplies and services are extremely burdensome on suppliers and commissioners alike but they have evolved to introduce safeguards that reduce the scope for dishonesty and ‘favourite picking’ and to provide all potential providers with a level playing field. Government procurement frameworks are a means of reducing that burden by jumping through the EU procurement hoop once every few years, after which many of the safeguards are reduced.

This framework appears go some way towards meeting the criticism of the inflexibility of previous framework agreements but the four-year restriction of competition to one online shop and six managed service providers does not bode well for the UK market. Even the chosen consultancies will find their freedom to advise fettered by the choices made by the framework commissioners.

We also have to ask from where will ESPO get impartial advice when making the selection? There is, for example, a diversity of opinion on what constitutes a good managed service and all experts in this small field (some of whom will be tendering for a place on Lot 3) have biases. Or will the selection be made, as with previous frameworks, by people who have no in-depth knowledge of the topic and who are therefore easily swayed by the suppliers who can talk the best talk?

eHealthInsider article. EU tender notice.

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  1. Cathy

    Surprise! the pre-procurement phase concluded it is a Framework Agreement that is needed. Yet as I predicted the timescales have slipped (was to have been tender first quarter 2013 and Framework Agreement in place by summer) and now the tender timescales are set with the intention of having this contract in place (and presumably therefore available?) to commissioners in just 2 months time … or will 6 months of the 4 years be set-up time when it isn’t available?

    We criticised inflexibility of framework agreements and apparently the solution is a one stop shop online run by one supplier. I appreciate that flexibility is inbuilt with the dynamic nature of this shop being able to have changing product lines BUT “one supplier managing a supply chain of manufacturers and product resellers” does not sound like a quick set up; does not yet exist in a thoroughly holistic and useful form; and to be honest sounds like adding costs or squeezing the manufacturers/resellers margins – that might tick boxes for commissioners but it doesn’t do much for stimulating a diverse marketplace nor for the users.

    So will commissioners be lead by the nose to prefer to outsource with the limited range of suppliers under Lot 2? and will those suppliers be constrained to the Lot 1 Catalogue or can they supply any products? and then why would those 6 suppliers want their products to be in the catalogue when they can set their price at a secondary competition?

    Applying common sense rather than procurement legalese – this tender appears to trip itself up before it has even got off the ground and has done nothing to persuade me that a Framework Agreement can be truly flexible and holistic which is what is needed

  2. The ESPO tender is a bit of a shame for the market place. On the one hand Lot 1 reverts back 10 years to try to encourage commissioners into the proven failed method of procuring a bag of bits and hoping for the best. I also do not see how the successful single tenderer is going to acquire sufficient data to distinguish one tender from the next.

    on the other hand, Lots 2 and 3, which potentially add competition to the market by expanding on the PASA/Buying Solutions/Cabinet Office supply base which has been frozen for 5 years, should allow for many more suppliers to be successful.

    It would be great if ESPO would revisit the basis for the tender.