Telecare Soapbox: Northern Ireland. We announce the winner and losers

Editor Steve predicts the future…

When – if – the procurement process for the Northern Ireland Remote Monitoring Service that is being conducted by the European Centre for Connected Health (ECCH) is ever drawn to a conclusion, there will be no winners. Even if the contract is awarded.

Well, there will be one minor winner, the consultancy that was paid to produce a report on the short listed companies, way back at in the early days of the tender. That report will make interesting reading when it is eventually released.

As for the rest, there are no winners. When the contract is awarded to the TF3 consortium (comprising Tunstall, Fold Housing Association Limited and Silicon and Software Systems Limited), as it surely will be, given the process of elimination we can now undertake,* it will be a hollow victory.

The marathon three-year procurement process (which has a surprising number of parallels with They shoot horses, don’t they? – check it out), has cost all the bidders significant amounts of management attention and money to attend the demonstrations and meetings required of them over the years.

So everyone will be losers:

  • the ‘winners’, who will be suspected of succeeding only because they survived the longest
  • the other bidders, because of the wasted time and cost
  • the ECCH, which should have been put out of its misery two years ago
  • the people listed on the ECCH website as clinical representatives and advisory group members who have failed to disassociate themselves from the fiasco
  • the health minister Michael McGimpsey who authorised the project, announced it in January 2008, and who has lost grip on it since
  • the NI Assembly’s Health Committee that has failed to hold the Minister to account
  • the UK taxpayers, which have been funding the ECCH

But the principal losers have been, of course, the thousands of people and their families who could have started benefiting from the service two years ago if the procurement had been conducted along conventional lines.

In addition, future potential patients will miss out because the element of EU funding in the original £46 million pot has been lost owing to the delays, so the service will be smaller and serve fewer people if it ever gets off the ground.

As I wrote back in September 2009 “…any one of the four short listed consortia could probably make a reasonable fist of delivering the required service”. But, by letting time eliminate bidders, the ECCH has spared Minister McGimpsey from having to flip a coin for the result and has spared its managers from having to find a justification for it.

Finally, many readers will be acutely aware of the irony of the loss of Home Telehealth Limited to the procurement because during the past couple of years it has been in Northern Ireland successfully delivering on a smaller scale the very type of service that ECCH set out to procure!

* For readers less familiar with the story, the process of elimination goes like this:

  1. Two of the original four short listed bid consortia (the ones led by Hewlett Packard and Robert Bosch Healthcare) withdrew from the process last year. [TA item]
  2. The BT-led bid must have been fatally flawed by the acquisition last week of its bid partners Home Telehealth Limited by Alere. [TA item]
  3. The TF3 consortium will therefore be declared winners.

[Disclosure: HTL has been a Telecare Aware advertiser]

Categories: Soapbox.


  1. Justin


    Whilst you make some valid points I think you also make some misinformed comments and as ever they are somewhat cynical, how about majoring on some of the positives, like the 800 or so patients that are already receiving a service from the trials that have been run in parallel in NI?
    The final funding will be no where near £46m.
    My understanding is that Home Telehealth have not been in the BT bid for a long time, you might want to check that fact though with BT or HTL directly.

    Incidentally, I do find it strange that there is no mention of the HTL purchase on the Alere medical website as one would expect from a publicly listed company … one might feel that Mr Range has jumped the gun perhaps??

  2. Steve Hards, Editor

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for your comments. If I may respond:
    • Misinformed? Maybe. Uninformed – definitely! ECCH has done an abysmal job of letting anyone know what’s been happening. OK, they can’t comment on the (non)progress of the tender selection process, but they could have given some publicity to “800 or so patients that are already receiving a service from the trials”. (If you can reference a published source for that, I’ll look to see why I didn’t pick it up.)
    • I did say the funding will now be be less than £46m, and the service, if it happens, will be smaller as a result. That’s down to ECCH’s handling of the procurement.
    • If Home Telehealth Limited have been out of the BT bid for a long time, which may be right, then ECCH should have rulled it out and made the decision before now! It does perhaps throw some light on why HTL felt free to proceed with the sale to Alere.
    • Why Alere hasn’t made an official announcement yet is a bit of a mystery, but I assume that, like any large corporation the approval wheels for such things tend to move slowly


    • Justin

      Thanks for the reply. Ref the existing trials, I doubt you will find anything publicising the numbers, but one of the reasons industry thinks (wrongly or rightly) that TF3 will win is because Fold have been providing Telehealth in NI for 4 years and I am led to believe it is in the hundreds.
      Can’t agree with you final bullet, when public companies make acquisitions they [u]must[/u] inform the market quickly not slowly, something does not stack up, perhaps it is not a done deal yet?

  3. Steve Hards, Editor

    I can confirm from a source in Alere that the acquisition is ‘a done deal’ and that a press release is on its way.

  4. Justin


    The industry grapevine is confirming your prediction, Tunstall won, BT lost, and it is in a standstill period for 14 days.
    I doubt there will be anything official until the standstill is completed.

    • Steve Hards, Editor

      Interesting, thanks! Of course, there is also the counter-rumour that BT is still in with a chance with an alternative partner to HTL.