It is well known that tendering is a competitive and, at times, challenging exercise. However, the first challenge comes long before the evaluation of your tender responses, before you even express an interest. Finding tenders — the right tenders, well-matched to your organisation’s experience and competencies — is the crucial first step in a successful bidding process.
Here is a quick breakdown of some of the most important factors that need to be considered when selecting primary care tenders to bid for.
Buyers of primary care services are notoriously risk-averse. This is true not only of NHS trusts and CCGs, but also councils and other public sector bodies. A top priority when looking for contracts should therefore be identifying tenders for which you have delivered the same service in the past, with due consideration for the safety of patients and practitioners. This will put you in good stead when you come to write your responses as you will be able to truly capitalise on everything that you have already achieved.
Additionally, you need to think about who the buyer is. Different authorities have different preferences. There is no hard-and-fast rule, but in general NHS tenders require more exhaustive evidence, more attachments, and have a greater focus on compliance. Conversely, local authority contracts often have more scope for making proposals and innovating, and reduced requirements for an extensive suite of policies and written procedures. Look for buyers whose preferences lean towards your organisation’s strengths, increasing your chances of success from the off.
The Contract Value
As with all tenders, there will likely be a minimum turnover requirement for whichever opportunity you choose to bid for. To ensure that you can provide the required confidence that you have the capacity to provide good coverage across the whole contract area, providing high-quality services to all patients/service users, you should be able to demonstrate a turnover of at least double the annual contract value — ideally triple. Additionally, showing that you will not be reliant on the service tendered for will reduce your organisation’s perceived financial risk. Bear these important elements of the financial evaluation in mind when selecting contracts, as being rejected on the basis of turnover would mean that all your hard work preparing the bid would have been in vain.
The Contract Structure
We are often approached by providers who want to start working for the public sector for the first time, and asked how to break into lucrative new markets via tendering. Our advice is to think about ways to get a ‘step up’; different ways of working that can be a gateway to sole provider contracts. Starting with sub-contracting arrangements or framework contracts can be a great way to gain experience, leading into more opportunities to bid for sole provider contracts. If you are new to tendering, looking for contracts with an upcapped number of providers can be a really effective way to start working with the NHS and tap into profitable new business ventures.