The UK Government’s Social Value Model and the NHS Social Value Model

Background to Social Value Models

In September 2020, the UK Government published its ‘Social Value Model’ which provides a framework and guidance for commissioners of public services to assess tenderers’ proposals for social value. In a Social Value PPN (PPN 06/20), the Government mandated that the Social Value Model should be applied to all new procurements from January 1st 2021, for ‘in-scope’ organisations, namely Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs). Both NHS England and NHS Digital are NDPBs.

The Model offers commissioners a social value framework for defining social value within a tender and for assessing the relative merits of tenderers’ social value delivery plans against specified criteria. From the perspective of a tenderer, the application of the Social Value Model should make it easier to respond to questions on social value and to develop plans over time to improve social value performance, since question topics and evaluation methodologies should remain consistent. In turn, this should help tenderers to increase their scores against social value questions.

Overview of the Social Value Model

As shown in the table below, which is taken from the Government’s ‘Guide to using the Social Value Model’, the Model incorporates 5 themes and 8 policy outcomes.

These are all based on the UK Government’s social value priorities – at least these were the priorities when the Model was being developed – hopefully COVID-19 recovery will not remain a permanent fixture within the framework!

While the Government’s original intention was that commissioners are free to select the most relevant themes and policy outcomes for each procurement, NHS England has mandated the inclusion of the ‘Fighting climate change’ theme in every social value NHS contract/tender (see below).

Themes Policy outcomes
Theme 1 COVID-19 recovery Help local communities to manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19
Theme 2 Tackling economic inequality Create new businesses, new jobs and new skills
Increase supply chain resilience and capacity
Theme 3 Fighting climate change Effective stewardship of the environment
Theme 4 Equal opportunity Reduce the disability employment gap
Tackle workforce inequality
Theme 5 Wellbeing Improve health and wellbeing
Improve community cohesion

Source: Guide to using the Social Value Model, Government Commercial Function, Dec 2020

In applying this government social value model, commissioners must apply a minimum weighting of 10% to social value when tenders are scored and evaluated i.e. if a tender can score a maximum of 100 marks, at least 10 of those marks must be attributed to social value with the remaining marks split between price and quality considerations. A higher weighting can be applied by commissioners if justified.

Each policy outcome within the Social Value Model is associated with other Model elements as follows:

  • Model evaluation questions: the suggested questions to be posed to tenderers within the Invitation to Tender documentation.
  • Model Award Criteria (MAC): the high-level actions which tenderers should take to support a policy outcome. For example, in relation to policy outcomes under Theme 1 COVID-19 recovery, the actions under MAC 1.1 are; ‘Creation of employment, re-training and other return to work opportunities for those left unemployed by COVID-19, particularly new opportunities in high growth sectors.’
  • MAC Sub-Criteria: lower-level actions to support the relevant MAC e.g. sub-criteria for MAC 1.1 include ‘Delivery of apprenticeships’ and ‘Offers of work experience’.
  • Model response guidance for tenderers and evaluators: collectively, the MAC and MAC Sub-Criteria are intended to guide both tenderers and commissioners by providing the framework against which every response is to be evaluated.
  • Reporting metrics: how social value performance is to be measured in terms of performance against actions defined in MAC and MAC Sub-Criteria. In the examples above, this could include the number of apprenticeships created, or the number of individuals supported on a work experience scheme.

Social Value Model Quick Reference Table

A useful summary of the Social Value Model, including all the above detail is provided by the Social Value Model Quick Reference Table.


The NHS Social Value Model

Since April 1st, 2022, NHS England has required all NHS organisations in England to apply the Government’s Social Value Model to the commissioning and purchase of goods and services for the NHS. This covers most of the healthcare services in the UK, which are now commissioned either by NHS England itself, or by Integrated Care Boards, which are also defined as NHS organisations.

NHS England published social value model guidance for NHS procurement teams in an article entitled ‘Applying net zero and social value in the procurement of NHS goods and services’. This guidance seeks to build on the broader advice around the Social Value Model provided by central government and to offer healthcare-specific examples to NHS commissioners.

The guidance underlines the role of NHS procurement in delivering the NHS commitment to reach net zero by 2045, given that over 60% of NHS carbon emissions are generated by the supply chain and states that all procurements must now support NHS Net Zero and broader Social Value goals.

NHS England’s social value model guidance covers 4 main areas:

1. Selecting the social value themes: To support the NHS net zero commitment, NHS England has mandated that every procurement should include the theme of ‘Fighting Climate Change’. For every theme, NHSE identifies NHS priority areas and examples of how priority areas could be supported by successful bidders. For example, under the ‘Wellbeing’ theme, the priority area identified is ‘Support physical and mental health’ and one of the ways it is suggested contractors could support this area is to deliver ‘Programmes to support physical and/or mental wellbeing for staff.’

Most procurements we see include 2 or 3 social value themes (including the mandated Fighting Climate Change).

2. Determining the net zero and social value weighting: Considerations when  determining the weighting to be applied to net zero and social value within a procurement. Most procurements we see apply the minimum 10% weighting.

3. Adding net zero and social value questions to the tender and effective contract management: Examples of social questions which could be asked as part of a healthcare procurement with suggestions for how the delivery of the resulting social value benefits by providers could be benchmarked where appropriate and measured/monitored as KPIs during the contract. NHS England’s guidance paper includes a useful table with examples.

4. Evaluating the tender response: One of the pieces of advice given here is that commissioners should ensure suppliers provide clear metrics in tender responses that will become contractual requirements at award stage. To support this, a common request from commissioners is for a timed action plan to accompany a response, describing when and how social value initiatives will be implemented and managed. Tenderers should expect commitments made in these action plans to form part of the contract with commissioners.

As in all sectors, social value delivered by a healthcare provider must be in addition to the core deliverables of a tender. For most healthcare procurements, this means social value will relate to how a service is delivered, for example how staff are recruited (locally and/or from amongst disadvantaged groups), or provision of electric vehicles and/or use of shared or public transport for staff who must travel to deliver services.

Other Social Value Frameworks

Procurements issued by Local Authorities e.g. for public health services, are not bound by the NHS England mandate to use the Social Value Model and many Local Authorities are now using other social value frameworks across their procurements, which cover multiple sectors, not just healthcare. All frameworks seek to offer the same core benefit of consistent definition and evaluation of social value initiatives.

Social Value Toms

One commonly used framework is the ‘National TOMs’ (TOMs stands for Themes, Outcomes and Measures).

An interesting point of difference between the Social Value Model and frameworks like the National TOMs is the focus of the former on qualitative rather than quantitative evaluation of social value, as stressed in the ‘Guide to using the Social Value Model’:

Under the Social Value Model users assess and score the quality of the social value offered in the tender against the selected policy outcome/s at evaluation stage, in the same way as they would do for any other evaluation criteria designed to assess quality.

In contrast, the focus in the National TOMs is very much on quantification of social value. We have seen procurements in which commissioners mandate that bidders must commit to deliver x% of total contract value in social value, as calculated through the National TOMs. It is easy to see the attraction of the simplicity and impact of the quantitative approach for commissioners.

We will watch with interest as the quantitative vs qualitative argument plays out over time.


Read more about: Social value tenders
Read the Guide to using the social value model
See the Social Value Model Quick Reference Table PDF reference document

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