UK Framework Agreement: Application observations

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Yesterday I [Editor Steve] set about to put together a checklist that may be helpful to companies considering applying to tender to be on the Buying Solutions (BS) Framework Agreement (FA). Hey! I didn’t invent those initials!

Constructing a checklist turned out to be more difficult than anticipated – the actual Invitation to Tender (ITT) guidance is 61 pages and is the full thing. Careful reading of Sections 1-5 will steer you through the process, so I have ditched the checklist. However, in the process of putting it together I had some observations which may be useful…

Observations on the Buying Solutions framework agreement process

1) Get on with it! Applying is a lengthy process and suppliers on the previous FA will have an advantage over new applicants. The timetable (which may vary at BS’s discretion) is:

27/03/2010: Deadline for submission of ITT clarification questions.
06/04/2010: 1500hrs GMT is the deadline for submission of completed tenders
05/05/2010: Completion of Tender evaluation
12/05/2010: Issue of intention to award letters and written debriefs (10 day period for appeals)
22/05/2010: Issue of award letters to successful bidders
25/05/2010: Execution of framework agreements (Customers can order)
25/05/2010: Marketing launch

2) Register now, and download the documents:

  • Visit https://buyingsolutions.bravosolution.co.uk
  • Register by clicking on the link top left on that page
  • When registered, log back in
  • Click on ITTs Open to All Suppliers (ITT = Invitation To Tender)
  • Select Assistive Technologies Telecare/Telehealth/Telecoaching Solutions
  • Select ‘Express interest’ in the left hand column
  • It then moves to the My ITT area of your Buying Solutions login and there you can download all the documents

The documents comprise:

  • Telecare ITT Final Amended (Word doc 61 pages) These are the actual instructions to work through
  • Model Contract (Word doc)
  • Telecare Framework Agreement (Word doc)
  • Telecare Framework Agreement Schedules 3-15 (Word doc)
  • Clarification Questions (PDF) This will be updated frequently
  • Script No.4 How to download documents (PDF) (A bit late after you have downloaded them!)
  • Script No.5 How to upload the completed tender documents (PDF) Important

3) Suppliers that make it onto the FA will have considerable advantages. Although there is no guarantee of sales, one does not have to go through the tendering process again with many potential customers for the next two years, possibly four. Furthermore, the competition is narrowed to other companies on the FA, and many organisations other than councils and the NHS will be able to purchase through it, such as registered social landlords, the police, charities, and even the Covent Garden Market Authority…

4) It appears that once the FA is in place there is no requirement on purchasers to consider competing offerings between companies on the framework when making a purchase. They can just choose to put orders with the supplier that takes their fancy or whichever one happens to offer the best ‘extra-contractual benefits’.

5) Just like NHS PASA did previously, BS will need savings to brag about. It will therefore need to demonstrate that it has screwed down the prices of the successful companies. This, and BS’s 0.6% commission on sales, has implications for pricing strategies.

6) The first five categories (‘lots’) require the products and services offered to be capable of being purchased ‘off the shelf’, i.e. not to be bespoke. Those that do need tailoring will have to compete in the sixth lot, managed services. As services almost always require some element of tailoring, getting into the sixth lot could become extremely competitive, since BS expect to appoint up to 20 companies only in this category. The question then for telecare and telehealth service providers is whether they can package things so that the adaptations they have to make for different customers can be counted as a standard part of the service, enabling them to compete in lots 2 or 4 as appropriate.

7) If you have any ‘green credentials’, highlight them in your initial application. They are a BS plus point.

8) With so many itsy-bitsy telecare monitoring centres in the UK, most with spare capacity, they must be thinking that being on the FA is a quick route to expansion. BS can therefore expect a flood of applications in lot 2, telecare services. With a maximum of only 40 places available, clusters of centres would do well to partner up before applying. Perhaps the FA will have the unintended but highly desirable consequence of bringing about greater efficiencies in the industry. Whoa! Was that a pig just flew past?