A Rough Guide to Successful
Tendering in Substance Misuse
The SMMGP workshop entitled ‘Competitive Tendering in Substance Misuse’ covered a number of key issues; the range of concerns about competitive tendering that exist, the usual pitfalls encountered by those submitting bids for services and of course the current political, economic and commissioning imperatives all influencing the substance misuse and related health and social care arena’s.
For those organisations approaching competitive tendering as novices, or for those who have tendered previously without too much success, there is a pressing need to skill up in this area. With this in mind, HM Solutions offer you our Rough Guide to
Successful Tendering in Substance Misuse. Success in tendering cannot be
guaranteed of course but if your next bid follows our suggestions, your chances of winning will increase significantly.
All too often, the undoubted specialist substance misuse knowledge and experience of bidding organisations can be portrayed – both in written materials and at the tender presentation stage – as arrogance and inflexibility. This may be unintentional of course; all the more reason to re-think how you get your message over. Yes, commissioners and purchasers want to feel re-assured that you know your business and have professional credibility but they also need to see that you can innovate, form partnerships with complimentary agencies including those in the criminal justice system and social care, share information, take part in contract management processes and respond to constructive criticism when its due. Winning the contract should be the start of the relationship not the point at which provider and commissioner start to take divergent paths.
Before you or anyone in your organisation sits down to write your bid there are a number of important elements that need to be addressed;
• Read all the tender documentation thoroughly as it is issued. Most of your initial
questions will be answered in this way. By all means seek clarifications from the procuring body but be aware that any questions and subsequent answers provided will be circulated to everyone who has expressed interest. Read the fine print too.
• Often, tender processes are phased. See each phase as a hurdle to be overcome.
There is more below on Pre-Qualifying Questionnaires (PQQ’s), Invitations to Tender (ITT’s) and interviews. Make sure that you have assessed the amount of work entailed in each phase and that you have sufficient resources to complete in the advertised timescales, which are often short. Some ITT’s can require submissions that run to 200 pages. Thankfully others have word limits and are much shorter. The message here is know what you are dealing with up front.
• Increasingly, successful substance misuse bids and the subsequent delivery of
services are built upon formal partnerships. Our advice here is clear; your bid may well be strengthened by partnering with another organisation and if that is the
case, you ignore it at your peril. Be aware though that forming a partnership amounts to a lot more than splicing your bids together. There is an absolute need to get round the table with your prospective partner(s) and thrash out your common (and contrasting) culture and values, who will do what in the new service, how the service will be managed, your approach to governance, information sharing, dispute resolution, pricing and the contractual nature of your relationship including who will lead the bid to name but some aspects. All this takes time spent in the same room forming a working partnership model.
• Do some local research. Avoiding your bid looking like it has come off the shelf is
important; commissioners will understandably want to see that delivering services in their locality is of strategic importance to your organisation and your bid ought to reflect that. However pre-submission research has other functions. What level of need exists in the area you are bidding for? How would you utilise staff to deliver relevant services within the funding envelop? What are the social & economic challenges in the communities you seek to serve? What worked before and what didn’t? Are commissioners looking for radical change or modest reform? What workforce development challenges would you face as the new provider? What liabilities will you face under Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations?
• Use a range of local research methodologies including data from the National Drug
Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), Public Health Observatories (PHO), information on Drug Related Deaths, surveys of local users, local strategic plans, reports and treatment plans etc. You could even do some mystery shopping.
• If the tender remains in your sights after your research ensure that you plan your
bid carefully to meet the advertised submission dates. The Procurement Process and Tender Phases
• Pre-Qualifying Questionnaires (PQQ’s)
PQQ’s come in various shapes and sizes but are essentially aimed at assessing your organisational readiness to do business and deliver services. On occasion PQQ’s will also require you to answer some technical service delivery questions but these are likely to be brief and will require further expansion in the ITT. Increasingly, PQQ’s are asking about your organisation’s partnership formation work at that point. PQQ’s can take some time to complete and will often throw up issues for you to consider such as being able to satisfy the list of required policies and procedures as well as demonstrating a track record of sound financial & organisational governance.
Attention also needs to be paid to the format that is required for PQQ submission. Some processes require all your referenced organisational policies and procedures to be submitted along with multiple copies of the PQQ itself. Increasingly, submissions are called for electronically and as such ensuring your policies and procedures are available in this format is important. Lastly, for many organisations, PQQ completion can seem like a formality. However, care must be taken at this point as the bar has been raised and perfectly competent service providers have found themselves eliminated at the PQQ stage because they lost points in areas where they really shouldn’t. Avoid complacency.
• Invitation To Tender (ITT)
For those organisations that successfully negotiate the PQQ stage of the procurement process, an Invitation to Tender will be issued. The ITT will usually contain, amongst other documents, the draft service contract, the service specification and a financial schedule. All these documents should be read carefully.
There principles should underpin your approach to completing the ITT;
Assign the writing of sections of the ITT to people in your organisation with relevant expertise. Someone needs to retain editorial and document control.
Don’t assume how good your reputation is – provide fully articulated examples of previous experience where appropriate that strengthens your pitch.
Ensure that what you write is relevant to the service specification. If it isn’t then don’t include it; unnecessary waffle won’t help you.
What often works well is to focus on describing service user (patient) care pathways and movement through treatment systems including how people will leave treatment in positive ways by moving into purposeful activity and recovery Take time and effort to propose how you will develop the existing workforce as
often TUPE will apply to contracts. What will change and how will you manage it? Ensure that you convincingly demonstrate your approach to driving service quality
improvements and that robust, transparent clinical governance is in place.
Look to demonstrate added value in the form of innovation, efficiencies, evidence of effectiveness or even your ability to lever in other funding sources
Ensure that your service model is fully costed and is transparent. You need to be competitive around staff costs, management fees and overheads. ITT’s now usually balance evaluation between quality and cost.
Meaningful service user and carer involvement will need to permeate your bid You are likely to be asked about how the new service will implemented; include if
you can a fully fledged and time scaled implementation plan that you are confident is deliverable. The plan should cover key features including staffing, premises, data transfer, communication, service users and contingencies.
• The Tender Presentation
If your organisation is shortlisted following ITT submission it is likely that you will be invited to deliver a tender presentation to a commissioning panel. The following steps are recommended;
Where possible research the panel membership, who they represent and what they
might be interested in; know your audience.
Think carefully about the makeup of your presentation team. Not just who will deliver the formal element of the interview but who else will enhance the team. Your partnership, if you have one, ought to be represented of course but you also need to consider the value of an operational management presence, clinical governance expertise plus the user/carer perspective. 3 or 4 team members are usually optimal and often you will be limited to this number anyway. Lastly, this is no time to carry anyone; if someone isn’t an asset in the pressurised surroundings of an interview, don’t include them.
Make sure your tender presentation addresses the task you have been set in the time limit you are given.
The Morning After
If you win, fantastic. Now the hard work really starts. If you lose, spend some time analysing why, so as to improve your next bid. Be realistic and look for learning opportunities. Seek formal feedback from the procurement team and act upon it.
Hebden Management Solutions are:
Martin McGroarty, with a background in service provision, a former Partnership Strategy & Commissioning Manager with overall responsibility for strategic development and commissioning of specialist drug, alcohol, criminal justice & social care provision in addition to responsibility for Offender Health on behalf of a PCT. Ian Merrill a former Regional Director of a large national charity delivering drug and alcohol services across all the tiers of treatment. Ian has significant experience of leading and managing services in the voluntary and statutory sectors in community and custodial settings.
Ian and Martin have wide experience of delivering consultancy projects on behalf of the NTA; DAAT’s and service providers including needs assessments, clinical reviews, service re-designs, tendering, TUPE transfer, contract implementation, organisational development and workforce development.
Company Number: - 6824591 19 Garnett Street Hebden Bridge West Yorkshire HX7 6AL 07988885724 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.hm-solutions.org/