NHS England has this week announced the start of its procurement exercise to set up a framework agreement of providers of Commissioning Support Services. NHS England’s aim is to provide a framework to enable commissioners to select from a list of providers that have demonstrated a capability to deliver a full end-to-end commissioning service. Providers will need to demonstrate capabilities across all service lines in each of the Lots which NHS England has developed via a consultation process with stakeholders. Bidders will be expected to bring in additional support as required and so bids will be accepted from sole providers, lead providers (acting on behalf of sub-contractors) and multiple providers acting as a consortium. 

The framework is split into two lots and the second lot will allow commissioners to select providers of more specific, niche support services such as medicines management and continuing healthcare and funded nursing care support services. 

Commissioning support services are part A services (as defined by procurement rules) so commissioners will need to ensure they procure such services via a process which complies with the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 and EU procurement principles. This framework agreement should simplify this for commissioners and help run a compliant process, provided of course that commissioners follow the call-off procedures in the framework. 

As has been reported previously in this blog, commissioners will be expected to competitively tender their commissioning support services in due course. The deadline for this was recently extended to April 2016 (as reported in the blog entry dated 2 September, 2013).

NHS England has issued a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire and details of how to access this are included in the announcement here. Providers will need to respond by 12 May 2014. An invitation to tender will then be submitted to shortlisted bidders on 14 July 2014 and NHS England has signalled its intention to conclude the process and appoint providers to the framework by the end of November 2014. 

Commissioners will not be compelled to use this framework agreement once it is established, and they will be free to run their own procurement exercise to obtain the commissioning support that best meets their requirements.