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“Win healthcare tenders” – a phrase that doesn’t quite jar correctly isn’t it? It might seem odd, even downright strange, that the provision of a service that requires such skill, specific training, and at times, intimacy, is put out for competition on the open market. However, more and more in the procurement industry we are seeing contract opportunities for the provision of health and social care, assisted living, health support work and such like, going out to tender.
Often, a care provider cannot simply apply to a local authority for work. Rather, it is up to them to win healthcare tenders through open competition with other providers by putting together the most efficiently costed and best proposal they can.
Health and social care tenders are on the rise in the UK as private care for elderly people or other vulnerable groups is increasingly being transferred into the hands of private companies. Indeed, the total value of contracts awarded in the sector to private suppliers increased 5% from 2017 to last year. The volume of contracts over doubled in the same period from around 5,300 to over 12,000.
2018 for example, saw public sector authorities award a suite of healthcare contracts to suppliers of all sizes of more than £8 billion in value. Whilst it is true that the lion’s share of this money was divided amongst a handful of large suppliers who together won three contracts across pharmaceutical provision and care worth over £1.2 billion, there was still almost a full £7 billion awarded to SMEs.
With a slight increase in total value but almost a 100% increase in the number of contracts being awarded the trend is clear. Increasingly in the sector works are being contracted in the form of a greater number of smaller contracts, typically handled by local authorities. Hence, this provides small, even start-up health and social support providers with a golden opportunity to break through the glass ceiling. For health and social care-focused SMEs, it behoves them to gather as much insight about this industry. It’s one that is abounding with opportunity for small businesses.
Of course, whilst the tender submission process allows theoretically anyone to bid, you’ll be reassured to know that for healthcare tenders, contracting authorities typically set strict criteria in terms of competence, professionalism and qualifications that must be met in order for a supplier to be successful. However, the beauty of the rise in healthcare sector tenders recently means that provided an organisation or freelancer can display the relevant criteria, the tendering process still allows them a chance to be successful, even up against the industry big-guns.
It’s possibly more important in the healthcare sector than in any other, to leave the buyer in no doubt as to your skills and experience in your tender submissions. Local authorities have a duty of trust and care to the vulnerable groups in their area and will not take any chances. No matter your prospects, competency and experience, unless you can showcase this and leave the buyer in no doubt as to your ability to deliver to the highest quality, your tender submission will in all likelihood not be successful.
So, what does help providers win healthcare tenders? As is no surprise in the procurement sector, there is no simple answer, nor one single formula that can be used across the board. (If only!) However, the following are some important considerations that providers should keep in mind. If used in the right way, they’ll have you well on the way to winning tenders in the healthcare sector.
To win healthcare tenders, or to be in with a realistic chance thereof, you have to be able to display appropriate accreditations and qualifications. Otherwise, you will fall at the first hurdle. Tendering authorities – typically local councils or health organisations – need to know that you’re a safe bet. They need to know that you and your team are a safety competent and respectful pair of hands. After all, you may be tackling what can be challenging, upsetting and intimate work.
Displaying some basic, internationally recognised qualifications quality accreditations and information security standards for your organization will help. Accreditations such as ISO 9001 and ISO 27001, as well as appropriate NVQs (usually level 3 or above), will typically help you make the first cut in the evaluation procedure.
As is a common theme in the tendering process, your evidence is key. Contracting authorities want to see solid evidence of your experience and competency. It is especially important to show this regarding the challenges you might face on the contract for which you are bidding. If you’re bidding to provide assisted living to people with Parkinsons, for example, showcase your past experience of doing so. Without firm evidence, including numbers, dates, figures and details of specific challenges, you may struggle. Indeed, building up a bank of case studies to draw on, is a key first step toward winning healthcare tenders.
Tip: For more information on the importance of using evidence in a bid and showcasing past experience, check out our “Evidence is Key” video on Tender VLE.
If you’re having problems showcasing your experience or writing case studies of past work, talk to our Hudson Succeed team today who can help showcase your experience in the best light to help you win healthcare tenders.
Make sure you really take the time to digest the requirements of the tender. Do your research and have a good grasp of the buyer’s aims for the contract and their wider, social aims. Make sure you read the specification of works in sufficient detail so that you can showcase your understanding of the challenges involved when writing your bids.
It is important to understand that you can bid to win healthcare tenders across numerous sub-sectors. The difference between these different sub-sectors, or care types, are often subtle but significant. Hence, it is important to have a good understanding of the exact requirements of the contract you’re bidding for. This will help ensure that your organisation’s staff, skills and experience are actually suited for the contract. Supported living, and assisted living, might sound similar, but in fact, involve a whole range of different services from one another.
On the one hand, supported living places emphasis on providing social support, guidance and counselling to service users. They can also be for rehabilitated offenders or young people with behavioural issues. Assisted living, on the other hand, is a type of care directed towards the elderly or those with disabilities. It often involves providing support with practical and personal tasks such as cooking, washing and shopping.
Subtle difference in the name, big difference in the support required. Make sure you, first of all, understand what service it is you are qualified and able to provide and that you can demonstrate this through experience. Then, move on and digest the requirements of each contract. Ensure you understand the specifics and details of the services required. Otherwise, you might be wasting your time.
Tip: If you’re struggling to understand the requirements of a contract, need a second opinion/pair of eyes, or would just like some guidance. Talk to our Hudson Succeed team today! Our dedicated team have vast experience writing winning bids across this sector and would be delighted to talk to you about how we can help you win healthcare tenders.
The call for care tenders has increased over the last few years, not least of which is because the need for care support (also known as domiciliary support) of the elderly is increasing year on year as the average lifespan of UK residents continues to rise. Procurement for the care sector has always been there. Now there are increasing opportunities for care providers of all sizes, whether they be small start-ups or large, established agencies.
Traditionally, care tenders were enormous with contract values out of the realm of many care providers. However, The Health and Social Care Act 2012 had a huge impact on how healthcare is organised and delivered. Where once the responsibility for sourcing and delivering services belonged to the central government, these days it is up to local NHS organisations, or Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) as they are known.
Local NHS organisations now work closely with local Councils to administrate the way health services are delivered within their localities. This has had a big effect on how procurement has developed in the care sector. According to recent government figures, NHS Trusts are collectively spending a staggering £9 billion a year in the procurement of goods and services. Engaging SMEs (Small, Medium and Micro businesses) is helping them to improve efficiency across the board.
People always ask, ‘are there UK regulations for Care Service Tenders?’ and the answer is quite simply – no.
There are regulations out there, but these are not specifically care sector focused.
The public care sector, along with all other public sector organisations, have to abide by strict doctrines relating to procurement and purchasing specific care services.
These UK regulations are not so much UK-based, but born from EU regulations and directives, which are transposed into state law.
This includes mainly the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
This, however, is applicable when care providers, such as the NHS, are procuring or buying certain services across the UK and beyond.
When it comes to the supplier, they must accept the terms and conditions of the tenders, which will reflect UK regulations such as this. That’s all YOU, as the supplier, need to do. This may consist of:
All the above have been put in place by procurement regulations to support the public sector buyer’s approach with procurement.
So – to put it simply, there are no UK regulations that care service providers/suppliers need to wholeheartedly abide by when tendering for contracts. This is usually regulated at the buyer’s end.
That’s not to say there are certain things that can be done by care providers to maximise their tendering success.
The term ‘care’ covers a broad range of services. Supported living for vulnerable children and young adults, support services for additional needs and care of the elderly to name a few. The need for these services only continues to grow. The way local authorities are choosing to structure their care tenders has evolved too. If you are looking for care tenders within your region, these are the types of tenders to look out for:
For many businesses (SMEs and large Corporates alike) Frameworks are the perfect answer to getting established in the public-funded care sector. There are many different frameworks to be applied to, which include:
Once you are admitted onto as an ‘approved supplier’ will allow you to bid on ‘mini-competitions’ for work.
The work you have access to once you are on one of these Frameworks is entirely restricted; companies not on the Framework are not permitted to tender for it. Once you are on a Framework, you can generally expect to retain your ‘approved supplier’ standing for 4 years, or similar (this can vary between Frameworks).
Being on a Framework is fantastic for other reasons too; the estimated value of the whole Framework might be £10,000,000, but the tenders you’re able to go for once approved may be of varied values. Being able to use a Framework as one of your contract examples could really strengthen other care tender responses. It offers you the opportunity to showcase your involvement with larger contract values. (Even if the work you get from that Framework is nowhere near the £10,000,000 mark!).
For more information about framework agreements, visit Tender VLE.
DPS’s are essentially the same as a Framework, in that they allow you the opportunity to become an ‘approved supplier’ to a Council, or other public body, and that being on the DPS will allow you the opportunity to bid for work not open to the wider tendering public. However, there are two key differences which make them a little more accessible than their Framework counterparts:
For more information about DPS’s, visit Tender VLE.
Queries we often receive from Care start-ups is about how to get into tendering without sufficient contract examples to provide as evidence. It’s an excellent question, as so much of writing bids for care tenders revolves around providing evidence that you have done the things you say you will do. If you don’t yet have that evidence, then getting it should definitely be your top priority. This, thankfully, is where second and third-tier opportunities come into play.
Councils often recognise that domiciliary needs can fluctuate wildly, or grow exponentially. It’s always worth contacting your local Council to ask if they have any second or third-tier opportunities available. These are aimed at smaller, less experienced companies. They may not have the turnover or experience to tender to be the main provider on a care tender.
Second or third tier opportunities generally involve providing floating support within an established region (usually home visits). These will be in response to the instruction of the main care provider (first tier provider). Tendering for second or third tier opportunities requires much less in the way of evidencing previous experience. This makes them ideal for care companies looking to get established in the procurement process.
Sometimes when established companies tender for multiple bids, they may win more work than they had anticipated, and are unable to facilitate it. In this instance they have a choice; rescind one or more of their bids or find a way to meet the whole need. In this instance, they may look to sub-contract some of the service delivery to smaller companies. Getting work through sub-contracting is another excellent way for young companies to gain the experience they require to start tendering for contracts of their own.
So, now you should have a good idea of how to get a foot on the ladder! Still, there is the question of writing care tenders themselves to consider. Although every tender is different, it doesn’t hurt to remember that the quality section for care tenders. It’s nearly always given greater significance in the evaluation of tenders than the price section is.
Here at Hudson, we have written care tenders for everyone from start-ups bidding for their first second-tier opportunity, to large companies applying to multi-million Frameworks. Here are three important things we think every care company should bear in mind when writing their bids:
If there is one thing that your local authority (whether that be the Council, NHS or other) is going to be excited to see, it is evidence that you have given thought to how you will integrate your service with other agencies. Care provision intersects with so many other professions (Social Workers, Doctors, SEN professionals, Therapists etc.). Showing the Buyer you have thought about how you will integrate with these other services for the good of the service users will be a strong point in your favour.
Social Value is important across all industries, but we have found that when writing care tenders, it is especially important. In all likelihood, you will be working closely with the wider communities you are operating within. We highly recommend doing your best to show the Buyer that you will bring value to these communities. Whether that is by local employment, charity work or positive engagement with minority demographics. Be realistic about what you can offer. Most importantly, try to show that you really believe in it. A strong social value response can be the difference between a strong care tender and a weak one.
Showing buyers that you are prepared to own the responsibility for identifying and mitigating risks is hugely important. Even if you are a start-up applying for second-tier opportunities. Demonstrating a strong approach to risk management will put your tender in the spotlight when buyers are evaluating responses. Remember, it is not enough to identify risk. You have to show that you understand how to minimise it and mitigate any possible consequences. This will prove to buyers that you are a responsible company. Thus, inspiring their confidence in your ability to provide a safe, quality service.
As tender writing experts, we can never stress enough that a one-size fits all approach does not work. If there were a single solution to every bid, we’d be out of a job! However, there are certain elements of healthcare tenders that are typically brought into consideration in the evaluation which are helpful to acknowledge or even emphasize. You will score bonus points in many healthcare tenders for showing an awareness of two things in your answers.
Generally, it’s helpful to show an awareness of these. Although, as a first port of call, you should check the wording and requirements of the specification at hand. Remember, specificity in all aspects will help you win healthcare tenders.
Tip: If you’re struggling with the writing side of things, check out our free online resource Tender VLE. Alternatively, talk to our Hudson Succeed Team today who will be happy to provide guidance, or take the writing off your hands altogether.
Typically, when it comes to healthcare tenders, quality is the most important aspect. Indeed, cost is usually regarded as less important. This is not surprising. Contracting authorities are more interested in getting a good quality service that meets the needs of service users fully, rather than a cheap service. Although that isn’t to say you should price yourselves out of the market. We recently wrote a bid for an assisted living contract that was assessed on 100% quality. That’s right – price wasn’t even considered!
Tip: If you’re struggling with what to write, how to respond to questions or showcase your experience, talk to our Hudson Succeed team today.
Local authorities typically publish mission statements, social objectives, or a list of values, for social wellbeing in their area. To be successful and win healthcare tenders, it is vital for bidders to show an awareness of these. They must also capture a real sense of how your organisation and approach embodies these objectives and values in your answer. Showing how you align with the values and aims of contracting authorities in your own approach and strategic objectives will win you instant bonus points.
For example, an authority talks about one of its corporate aims being a percentage increase in the proportion of BAME people represented in work across the district. It would be a good idea to:
This won’t only show your organisation to be the most suitable but show you have paid attention to their requirements. Paying attention to the individual requirements of those you serve is key to any health or social care work! Indeed, it’s hard for an authority to believe that you’d be able to do so in practice. Particularly if you cannot even display that you’re able to do this at the tendering stage.
To maximise your efforts with care service tenders, you can undergo multiple things to help you see success, such as:
Make sure you leave no stone unturned when working on tenders. Plan this out from the outset. Make sure you’ve allocated work out amongst your peers, so the correct input is maintained throughout.
Attend at least one national or regional event, specific to your service, bi-monthly. This will allow you to keep ahead of industry changes and innovations in your sector.
If you haven’t got the time, resource or personal skill, give it to the likes of Hudson Succeed to worry about so you don’t have to. We have a dedicated team of Tender Consultants who are experts in their field. We have written over 40 care-related tenders in the last 12-months alone.
Recently, we were asked by one of our Healthcare Recruitment clients to undergo some research. They needed to know what Care Recruitment Providers need in order to be successful (namely around the NHS).
We initially mentioned what’s been stated above. There’s no set regulations or compliance areas that are focused on care sector tenders from the supplier’s side. It’s just a case of what the buyer wants, in line with procurement regulations.
We looked a little further into this to see what our client’s competitors were doing. Looking to see if there was any further accreditations or compliance areas our client could partake in.
From a random selection of data (30 companies pulled from the list of supplying Healthcare recruitment services to the NHS) we collated the following information relating to what care providers possess. So, you can start looking into certain accreditations and memberships that would be good to hold:
Analysis of the cross-sample above does not indicate that any compulsory accreditations or memberships need be held. However, the ones that are most common and would be advisable to seek are:
More stringent requirements concerning entry onto certain NHS Frameworks would need to be ascertained from tender documentation pertaining to the desired Framework.
It’s all down to understanding the best accreditations, memberships and certifications to possess to go further in your field.
As care experts, you will already know the basics of what is needed.
If you don’t see success first time around when bidding for healthcare tenders, don’t be disheartened. Due to the sensitive and challenging nature of this type of work, healthcare tenders are often accompanied by strict evaluation criteria. A failure may well not be a reflection on your company. Simply the case that a contracting authority has found someone with more specific or niche experience.
Hence, don’t be down if you don’t win the first time, especially if you are a small business or haven’t been operating for very long. Indeed, contracting authorities typically look for a strong turnover and significant experience of delivering relevant services. If you’re struggling to win healthcare tenders, try a framework instead. Often these are more accessible for smaller businesses and have multiple opportunities for work.
Tip: To make sure you’re always bidding for relevant contracts that you have a realistic chance of winning, check out Tender VLE. We have lots of informative videos on how to select the right opportunities for your organisation and advice from our Bid Writers.
Many healthcare contracts are put out to tender on behalf of local authorities. Hence, for further advice, check our last week’s article on Council tenders and hints and tips on how to discover and win these. As always, if you have further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Hudson Succeed team today.
Remember to make use of our free online resource, Tender VLE, which will give you important industry hints and tips and insider knowledge on how to embark on your first steps toward winning healthcare tenders.
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