Procurement for Prisons

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The challenge

A large number of contracts which provided healthcare services to Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) in the North West locality were due to expire and the NECS Healthcare Procurement team was asked to lead the procurement of new services for NHS England and NHS Improvement North West Health and Justice team. 

Services to be secured were:  

  • Dental Services within HMP Liverpool and Hindley and Barton Moss Secure Children’s Homes  
  • Health and Social Care Services within HMP Liverpool, Haverigg, Buckley Hall, Hindley and Manchester  
  • Health and Social Care Services in Secure Children’s Homes for Barton Moss and Marydale  
  • Mental Health Services within HMP Liverpool, Haverigg, Buckley Hall, Hindley and Manchester  

Historically, these services had been commissioned by Primary Care Trusts on behalf of HMP and Secure Children Homes (SCH) within their localities. Subsequently, a range of different commissioning and contracting models were inherited which resulted in a variation of service provision and service quality. Contracts within each HMP had one provider who offered health and social care services and mental health care services under one umbrella of care, whilst general dental services were currently provided as standalone contracts.  

The main aims of the service were to secure the needs of the people who use them, improve the quality and improve the efficiency in the provision of the services. The following objectives were identified: 

  • For patients within any of the HMPs or SCH facilities to receive NHS standard services that were commissioned to the latest good practice, standards and guidance 
  • To deliver services that were equivalent in terms of access and quality to those services which are currently delivered in the community 
  • To deliver safer and better governed services that would improve patient experience and safety, as well as the quality of overall care 
  • To demonstrate and deliver clear clinical benefits, health improvements and health outcomes, ensuring the provision was underpinned by an approach that is flexible, innovative and evidence based. 

    Our response

    Four NECS Procurement Officers were appointed to each service line to work collaboratively and determine the best procurement route to secure new services, deriving collaborative procurement benefits. To make sure there was consistency in service provision, equitable access to services and value for money, the services were advertised as five separate tender processes grouped together by their specific service provision and grouped into lots by site/ location across HMP Prisons and SCHs across the North West. This approach bought the most benefits in quality improvements and value for money for the NHS. 

    NECS designed a market engagement exercise which was critical in ensuring an understanding of service viability and market capability, gathering further data from other CSUs for consideration alongside market intelligence. 

    Detailed market analysis outlined any risks/ considerations and procurement options in respect of the future commissioning of services. Upon approval of the recommended procurement route, support was provided in respect of the design to be used and guidance in respect of procurement efficiencies, including maximised resources and standardised documentation. The timing of procurements was designed and scheduled based on the interest received from the market. 

    High court building


    The NECS Procurement team was successful in delivering a robust procurement process. Work resulted in the award of contracts achieving quality and social value outcomes and financial savings against the advertised contract value in excess of £ 1.7m across the nine-year contract period.  

    The aims of future services were achieved by: 

    • Putting in place service models which ensured services were commissioned in accordance with the latest best practice, standards and guidance 
    • Undertaking a competitive process that ensured new providers will deliver services that are equivalent across all localities in terms of access and quality to those services currently delivered in the community, as well as improving the quality of care and demonstrating that they can deliver clear health benefits for prisoners.   
    • Competition in the market which drove up quality and allowed for cash saving benefits 
    • Valuable feedback from the market to support the final design of the service models and procurement process 
    • Delivery of social value benefits including workforce health and wellbeing 
    • Excellent collaborative working across NHSE/I and NECS 
    • Delivery of an agreed project plan and achievement against all milestones 
    • Delivery of a successful compliant procurement process in accordance with all relevant regulations and policies 
    • Lessons learnt undertaken to take forward best practice across the North and determining improvements for future procurement collaboration 
    • Reduction in the time needed across numerous activities and development of documentation. 
    • A joint communications and engagement plan 
    • Sharing of knowledge.