Well – here we are, 11 weeks into surely the longest and most confusing tender of all time! There have been 8 tranches of clarifications with over 850 questions and answers, so it’ll be easy to miss something on this NHS Clinical Tender.
We’ve put together the following information/checklist to try and help you to ensure you have answered/uploaded everything to the portal for this critical tender.
Check your messages and prior to submission, ensure they are all showing as “read”. It’s easy to miss these as they only show up as you login to the portal and not on the main submission pages. Some of them have important documents attached to them that have not been uploaded elsewhere within the portal.
Ensure you have opted out of any lots that you are NOT bidding for.
The evaluation model for this tender is fairly straightforward. Each element is marked independently, so for avoidance of doubt, scores in any individual stage will not influence your marks in any other stage.
- The first stage of the evaluation will be the Eligibility Questionnaire (pass/fail questions), the closed quality questions in the eligibility questionnaire (all yes/no answers) and confirmation that you meet the hours thresholds for the lots you are bidding for. If you fail any single element of this, your tender will be rejected.
- The second stage of the evaluation is the Commercial Schedule. This will only be evaluated if you have passed stage 1 described above. To get through this stage you simply have to pass (see the information provided under the Pricing Schedule heading).
- The third stage is the Audit Questionnaire. This will only be evaluated if you have passed stage 2 (pricing) described above. To pass this, you must score a minimum of 29 out of a possible 36 marks.
The evaluation model is described in more detail in Document 1, Invitation to Tender.
Most of these questions are fairly straight-forward. They fall into mandatory and optional categories. You must answer the mandatory questions, but you can leave the optional ones blank (or put N/A into the answer). Two considerations for this section are:
- Section 1.2 – Bidding Model question – are you bidding as the lead contact for a group of economic operators? – should be answered No. The rest of the question in that section are then optional.
- Section 6 – Technical & Professional Ability – this requires you to upload 3 contract examples for each of the lots you are bidding for. The template for this can be found attached on the portal at question level.
Lot Specific Questions & Hours Evidence
There is some ambiguity about how to present the hours evidence for Lots 1-4 on this tender.
Originally, we were asked to provide an excerpt from the ledger, then we were advised that specific column headings should be used in the ledger, in the last couple of weeks a template was provided as an optional way/example of how the hours evidence could be presented, then finally in clarification 761 (tranche 7 of the clarifications), they stated that Appendix 5 – Threshold Evidence Template is required to be completed. This can be found in the list of documents on the home page of the portal.
Many of our clients have already gone to some trouble to pull off a ledger report, so we have made the decision to upload both the ledger report AND Appendix 5 – Threshold Evidence Template in these cases (belt and braces!).
A few other observations on presenting the evidence:
- The report must relate to hours invoiced between the following dates: 1st September 2018 – 31st August 2019.
- The report only needs to demonstrate enough hours to meet the threshold required for the lot (i.e. 30,000 hours for nursing, 10,000 hours for doctors, 5,000 hours for AHP and 2,500 hours for emergency services workers). You may be able to do this by including just one client with high usage or more clients with lower usage – as long as the total exceeds the threshold required for the lot.
- You must provide a contract reference number even if you are not supplying under a formal contract. The contract reference number will be the framework contract number if you are supplying under a framework, however if not, you can just put in an internal client reference number or some kind of unique reference that identifies either the client or the contract.
- The column marked evidence# is more of a mystery. For our clients, we are referring to the relevant ledger report in this column, however, the clarifications have not specified what is required in the column.
ITT Documents Set
There should be 3 documents that you upload in this section as follows:
- The ITT Documents Set (document 5.0) which needs to be completed in full. You may use electronic signatures.
- The Framework Population Template which needs to be completed in full. This template has been provided as an attachment to a message that was published on 1st October and is NOT one of the original documents listed under “Activity documentation, files & links” section on the portal.
- The Terms & Conditions (document 4.0) which needs to have your company details filled in on page 1 and signature on page 4. You may use an electronic signature. You do not need to fill in the rest of this document.
The pricing schedule you should be using is version 3.1. PLEASE NOTE – the version of the pricing schedule attached at question level in the portal is NOT the current version! If you can’t find this template – look either on the list of tender documents on the main page on the portal or in your messages – it is attached to a message published on the portal on 17th October.
When filling in the pricing schedule:
- You do not need to fill in anything on the tabs for the lots that you are NOT bidding for. These can be left blank.
- You must fill in something for ALL bands on the tabs for the lots that you ARE bidding for. These cells must contain a % supplier fee that is between the floor and ceilings quoted in the pricing schedule. You can quote the floor (but not below) or the ceiling (but not above) and anywhere in between for each band in the spreadsheet – when you do this, the red “fail” cells will change to a green “pass”. If there are bands that you do not want to bid for, you should put n/a into the spreadsheet against these bands, and this will populate the cells with a green “pass”.
- Discounts are not scored. It is up to you whether you wish to offer a discount. You will not fail if you leave this tab blank.
The pricing schedule should be saved using the following naming protocol SUPPLIER NAME_NAME OF DOCUMENT and uploaded to the portal under the section entitled “commercial”.
Now for the big one! It appears that about half the clarification questions and answers relate to audit evidence and there is still considerable confusion around what “good” looks like for this section.
The objective of this section appears to be for you to demonstrate:
- That you have documented policies and procedures that align with the NHS Employers Standards, the specification and current legislation.
- That these policies and procedures are implemented operationally within your business.
Our main observations are as follows:
There is much ambiguity around the number of documents that need to be uploaded for each of the AC questions and how these should be presented.
- Originally the LPP stated that they wanted “up to 5 pieces of evidence” per lot for each question. This then evolved to “at least 5 pieces of evidence” per question, irrespective of the number of lots you are bidding for. The intention of this was to reduce the workload for agencies bidding for multiple lots, but it has actually just caused a huge amount of confusion with moving goalposts. We are recommending to our clients that they provide the following as a minimum – the policy and 4 pieces of evidence per question. If you have already uploaded zip files of evidence for each lot within each question, this is acceptable, and they do not expect you to redo this work.
- Originally the LPP stated that they wanted the policies and evidence to be uploaded in individual zip files for each lot, for each question. This evolved to a single zip file for each question. In the clarifications they have also stated that it is acceptable to provide all evidence for each question in a single zipped file (rather than 5 or more individual files zipped together).
- The naming protocol for the files/zip folders is SUPPLIER NAME_AC QUESTION NO – FILE NAME (example ABC Ltd_AC1 – Identity)
For Lot 7, there have been many questions around the relevance of some of these questions to the provision of a permanent recruitment service (e.g. AC9 which clearly relates to agency workers). The answers to this have again led to confusion. Originally, the LPP stated that all questions were to be answered for permanent recruitment, however, this evolved to uploading policies and evidence for those that are relevant to the service. They have indicated in tranche 4 of the clarifications that this would be a minimum of
- AC1 – Identity Checks
- AC2 – Employment History & Referencing Checks
- AC3 – Professional Registration & Qualification Checks
- AC4 – Right to Work Checks
- AC5 – Work Health Assessment Checks
- AC6 – English Language Competency Checks
- AC7 – Statutory & Mandatory Clinical & Core Skills Competence Relevant to the Role
- AC10 – Criminal Record & Barring Checks
- It also references a checklist of any clinical skills, an assessment of the work seekers literacy and numeracy competence
The LPP has specified that although the Contracting Authority may carry out many of the checks themselves, they still expect you to be able to provide all elements of the onboarding. We believe that there may be a case for checking the status of permanent staff for some of the other questions, e.g.:
- AC8 – Appraisal & Revalidation – although you will not be responsible for conducting appraisals for permanent candidates, it may be that you should be checking when they have their last appraisal and where applicable when they last revalidated as part of the process.
- AC11 – Accurate Charging – although the timesheet element of this question is not relevant to permanent recruitment, we believe that the other elements are and that you should be able to provide at least a policy, standard operating statement and sample permanent invoice for this question.
- AC12 – Records – we believe that this is fully relevant to Lot 7 and as such should be completed as any of the other questions. GDPR and the Conduct Regulations apply to permanent recruitment as they do to temporary recruitment.
This really just leaves AC9. PLEASE NOTE: the portal will not allow you to submit your tender if you do not attach at least 1 document to all 12 of the audit questions, so if you have nothing for AC9, you will still need to upload a document with an explanation on it of why you do not have a policy or evidence for this question.
As such we have recommended to our clients that they provide a policy and supporting documentation for all of the AC questions for Lot 7.
If you are struggling with this section of the tender, we have written the following templated policies and documents for both temporary and permanent lots to assist you with this section:
- Verification of ID Check Procedure
- Verification of Employment History & Referencing Checks Procedure
- Verification of Professional Registration & Qualifications Check Procedure
- Verification of Right to Work Check Procedure
- Verification of Work Health Assessment Check Procedure
- Verification of English Language Competency Check Procedure
- Verification of Statutory & Mandatory Clinical & Care Core Skills Training Check Procedure
- Verification of Appraisal & Revalidation Check Procedure
- Agency Workers Handbook
- Verification of Criminal Record & Barring Check Procedure
- Recruitment & Induction Procedure
- Accurate Charging, Invoicing & Timesheet Procedure
- Verification of Accessible Records Procedure
These are available to purchase individually for £95 + vat each or for £995 + vat for all 13 as a package.
We have also produced a Standard Operating Procedure which is designed to provide 1 piece of evidence for each of the 12 AC questions. This is available to purchase for agency workers HERE or for permanent placement HERE on our website.