Monday, 10 March 2014

Is the NHS suffering from procurement Tinnitus?

Tinnitus: Is a term that describes any sound a person can hear from inside their body rather than from an outside source.
Today, I read in the Financial Times two parallel reports on the same page, one with the headline "NHS prepares £1.2 bn outsourcing deals", and the other adjacent report with the headline "Bidders pull out of elderly services contest" (sadly the web versions have different titles).

You may also recall that last month I discussed the poor stakeholder management associated with and how the communications strategy needed to be improved. One of the big issues relating to patients concerns with is the fear that their health records will be accessible to the private sector. The notion that £1.2 bn of NHS 'pioneer contracts' for scandal-hit Staffordshire, along with Stoke on Trent, will be let for all cancer and end-of-life treatment for children and adults is unlikely to reduce those fears. How will private sector providers be able to deliver the services without access to the records? Yet, nowhere in the reports is that risk mentioned.

However, that shouldn't be the NHS main issue. Perhaps they need to consider how the lessons from the parallel report on what looks like a failed procurement exercise in Cambridgeshire will be learnt. It is reported that in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough a contract for elderly care, yes, something similar to the Staffs and Stoke-on-Trent contract, has suffered from providers opting out. Serco, Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, Capita and Circle are all reported to have withdrawn, supposedly due to the gap in what the Trust are prepared to pay and what the providers think it will cost. Are the providers who have withdrawn correct or the three remaining providers and the Trust right?

This isn't the first time the market have decided a potential contract isn't attractive, recall for example Peter Smith's post on the MOD GOCO.

We know there are real benefits of the public sector having early dialogue with the market in shaping bids but dialogue is two-way. Is market dialogue falling into the 'nice idea which should deliver real benefits but let's not bother' pigeon hole? Or, if it is being practiced, are we seeing examples of selective deafness during the market dialogue? It seems hard to believe that bidders would invest in a process and just pull out for the sake of it? Whatever is the cause, another competition which lacks enough credible bidders just shouldn't be 'put down to experience' it needs to be dissected with the lessons learnt and shared.

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