The NHS LIFT programme has received a recent boost from the Department of Health through the introduction of “Express LIFT”.

In a nutshell Express LIFT is a way of speeding up the procurement of more LIFT schemes in more LIFT areas. It is the procurement of a private sector partner that will be express, not the LIFT arrangements which remain more or less the same.

A panel of private sector partners will be put in place from which prospective PCT LIFT participants can call off providing they satisfy the Community Health Partnerships and the Department of Health that they have schemes suitable for delivery by a LIFT company.

The result of this new scheme is that completion of bids are expected to take four to five months, and local procurements are expected to complete within four to six weeks rather than approximately two years. This should significantly reduce bidder costs.

This new framework will operate for two years (plus another two for “good performance”); however, once a framework private sector partner has entered into a strategic partnering arrangement they will enjoy the exclusive right to deliver primary care premises for that area, with such exclusivity likely to be for ten years (with a possible further five years again for “good performance”). Note that this is a reduction in the period of exclusivity which was previously twenty years (with an optional five). This brings LIFT in line with BSF which provides for a ten year framework exclusivity period

It should be noted that foundation trusts can be participants but they will not be bound by exclusivity, and existing non-exclusive participants (ie, acute trusts) can choose to be participants in new LIFT projects in their areas. It is hoped that this initiative will also encourage further involvement by local authorities in relation to LIFT schemes. It is expected that primary care trusts will be able to use Express LIFT from January 2009.