What’s in a health and social care tender? Tender vocabulary explained.

Whenever a commissioner formally issues an Invitation to Tender (ITT) for an NHS or a social care service, the notice is invariably accompanied by a suite of other documents. Collectively, these documents are intended to provide all the necessary information for a prospective service provider to prepare and submit a bid for the service.

This blog describes the purpose and contents of the documents most commonly included in the “tender pack”.

What is an Invitation to Tender (ITT) document?

The Invitation to Tender (ITT) document provides a summary of the tender and is usually the first document to which you should refer. Key information within an NHS ITT or an ITT issued by a Local Authority for a social care service typically includes:

  • Background to the tender: why the tender is being issued, the nature of the service, details of existing provision (if any), demographics of the local population.
  • Contract details, including contract term and contract price. A contract term will usually be for several years and may include extension(s) which may be offered at the discretion of the commissioner e.g. “three years plus two optional one-year extensions”. The contract price may be fixed or may be presented as a price ceiling with bids accepted below the ceiling or tenderers may be invited simply to name their best price.
  • The tender timetable including dates for: submission of final clarification questions, tender submission, tender evaluation methodology, tender award and contract commencement.
  • How the tender will be evaluated including how scoring will be broken down by price, quality – as judged by responses to Quality / Technical questions – and social value.
  • Tender formatting requirements
  • A list of tender documents and appendices
  • A checklist of documents to be submitted by tenderers
  • Procurement rules

What is a Service Specification?

The service specification provides a detailed description of service requirements. This is probably the second document you should read, to make sure you can fulfill all the requirements. If you can’t fulfill all service requirement and you are nevertheless determined to bid for the service, you need to identity how you will cover any gaps in your expertise or resources by the start of the new contract. For example, this may involve partnering with another provider.

When you write your tender responses to Quality / Technical questions, you need to refer constantly to the relevant parts of the specification, to ensure your responses describe exactly how you will deliver the key requirements. This is the opportunity to showcase your experience, expertise and any innovation.

What is a Clarification Question Template?

Often, having read through all the tender documents, you will be left with some outstanding questions. Perhaps you have spotted some contradictions or there are issues which you need clarified or expanded upon. During the tender process, answers to these types of questions must be formally requested via Clarification Questions submitted through the tender portal. Often commissioners will provide a template for this purpose, usually in the form of an excel sheet.

It is important to note that responses to all Clarification Questions are released via the portal to all providers (in the interests of maintaining a “level playing field”). You should therefore guard against asking questions which might reveal any of your organisation’s strategy or insights, as they will be revealed on the portal, for all to see, along with the commissioner’s response to your question.

What is a Selection Questionnaire?

A Selection Questionnaire (SQ) is a standard part of a tender which requests information about your organisation including; contact details, background and status; bidding model for the tender; grounds for potential exclusion from the tender opportunity (self-declarations in relation to e.g. bankruptcy and any involvement in illegal activities); financial and economic standing; technical and professional ability; experience.

Many elements of a SQ will be identical for every tender opportunity to which you respond, so having submitted one tender, completing the SQ for the next should be very straightforward.

What is a Non-Collusion Document?

Commissioners may request providers to sign and submit a declaration that they have not colluded with other providers e.g. to fix prices. This is sometimes presented as a stand-alone document usually referred to as a “Non-Collusion Statement” or “Non-Collusion Certificate”.

What is a Social Value Template?

Every NHS tender and every social care tender issued by a Local Authority in England includes an element of Social Value. This requires each bidder to detail the environmental, social and economic benefits which they will deliver as part of their contract, over and above the benefits to be delivered by the service for which they are tendering.

Commissioners may request part or all of each bidder’s social value “offer” to be submitted in the form of a template, often in the form of a spreadsheet which requests bidders to quantify their commitments.  Templates may also be provided by 3rd party organisations which help commissioners (and allegedly providers) to track and manage social value commitments.

What is TUPE?

TUPE stands for Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations. These are designed to protect staff working in a service which is being re-tendered and whose jobs may be at risk if their employer is unsuccessful in retaining the contract.

Under TUPE regulations, staff who spend 50% or more of their working hours on a service are likely to be eligible to “TUPE-transfer” to a new provider, with their existing working terms and conditions (including salary and pension) being protected. In tenders which involve TUPE, commissioners usually ask bidders to detail how they will manage the TUPE process. If your organisation has no experience of TUPE and is bidding for such a service (and definitely if you win the tender!), you would be very well advised to seek an HR expert who has in-depth, current knowledge of TUPE regulations.

What is a TUPE list?

A TUPE list is produced by the incumbent service provider for any procurement where TUPE may apply. The TUPE list provides anonymised details of staff who may be eligible to  transfer to a new provider should their employer fail to re-secure the service as a result of the procurement. Anonymised staff details on the TUPE list will include key information such as role, salary, pension details, contracted hours and benefits, to enable bidders to develop and cost a staffing model for the service.

TUPE lists are highly confidential are usually not released with other tender documents. Bidders typically have to submit a signed declaration of interest before being sent the TUPE list, which is usually password protected.

What is a Confidential Information Form?

If any of your submission documents contain information which you believe is confidential and/or commercially sensitive, this can be highlighted to commissioners in a Confidential Information Form. This means that the commissioner will consider not releasing that information if it is subject to a subsequent Freedom of Information request by a third party.

Even if you do not wish to identify any information as confidential or commercially sensitive, you are likely to be asked to sign and submit the form.

What are Technical Questions and Quality Questions?

Technical Questions, also commonly called Quality Questions, are questions which require a narrative response which explain how you will deliver the service being procured. For health and social care services, common topics include:

  • Service model
  • Service mobilisation
  • Clinical governance
  • Safeguarding
  • Staffing and staff development
  • Patient or client engagement
  • Continuous service improvement and innovation

We will help you prepare an outstanding bid that demonstrates why you are best suited to win the contract. The bids we create regularly achieve the highest quality scores and deliver a superior success rate.

We will help you to drive organisational growth through bringing clear thinking, focus and direction to business development. We support both strategy setting and strategy implementation.

The insight HealthcareBids gains through working with you on a tender places us in an ideal position to provide a dedicated and experienced Project Manager to support your service mobilisation.

We will simplify the complexities of applying to a framework and guide you through the process, explaining every step and letting you focus on negotiating with your own suppliers and sourcing samples, certificates etc.

Get help with your bid or tender

Contact us using the phone number below and a member of our team will guide you through our processes and assess how we can help you.