Since 2012, the number of contracts awarded for interpretation and translation services has risen tenfold and more than 100 tenders are expected to be issued this year.
Adding up the total value of the awards made during the last six years reveals a market in excess of £1billion which is showing no signs of slowing.
Contracting authorities include major government departments, CCGs, NHS trusts, and local authorities. In the last three years, we have supported SMEs with interpretation and translation submissions for a variety of buyers, including:
- Nottingham City Council
- NHS Shared Business Services
- Central London Community Health Trust
- Walsall CCG
- Nottingham NHS Trust
- Coventry City Council
- Trafford Council
- NHS Sheffield CCG
The contracts we have seen recently have followed a consistent format, and are typically broken down into the same four recognisable lots:
- Face-to-face interpretation
- Telephone and video interpretation
- BSL and other sensory impairment support
- Written translation
Anecdotal evidence from several service providers suggests that purchasing authorities look more favourably on providers who have the capability to deliver services across all lots. Whilst clearly there are benefits to be gained from rationalising the number of suppliers, contract awards are still subject to due diligence and fair process.
Notably, the interpretation and translation sector is one where emphasis is placed on quality, with a 70/30 quality/price weighting being commonplace. As with all public-sector procurement, there is clear price sensitivity, but this weighting presents SME providers who offer high quality specialist services with an opportunity to grow their business at sustainable profit margins.
Writing winning tenders
Our approach to writing successful submissions therefore focuses on the benefits and advantages of the tendering organisation, which can include:
- Membership of national bodies such as the Association of Translation Companies, providing assurances of professionalism.
- The size of the linguist network, the variety and type of rare languages and dialects spoken, and the flexibility to accept short notice assignments.
- Machine and translation memory software, enabling large documents to be translated with accuracy, efficiency, and at a cost-effective price.
- Occupational health and welfare support for linguists, supplemented with extensive training to ensure they remain motivated, highly skilled in customer service and able to provide the best possible service. Interpretation services can be delivered in highly challenging and stressful situations, and due consideration must be given to supporting the linguist.
- A highly efficient language verification service, added value and efficiency in terms of the direct contract delivery, and social value to benefit the local communities.
With the obvious exception of the written translation lot, the tender specifications usually make it clear that a personalised service must be delivered. The people using the interpretation service will each have their own unique circumstances and expect to have their preferences met around the gender, age, religion, and culture of the linguist they want to assist them. An effective matching tool is therefore vital and must be complemented by a comprehensive understanding of confidentiality and data protection, aided by robust IT security systems.
Compliance with the government-endorsed Cyber Essentials Plus scheme is often mandatory for NHS contracts, and having gained certification for this ourselves in 2017, we are well-positioned to describe the benefit of this or support you to become similarly certified.
Advice from professional bid writers
Our services include a ‘bid, no bid’ advisory stage, and if we believe a contract is not right for you, we will always advise you before you choose to bid for the opportunity. In addition, we are well-placed to look out for suitable interpretation and translation contract opportunities for your organisation and to support you at each stage of the tendering process.