Framework agreements need to be more transparent and centrally aggregated, says GlobalData

The vast landscape of frameworks and their providers is making it difficult for ICT suppliers to identify the most appropriate and lucrative opportunities available. Frameworks need to be more transparent and centrally aggregated, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s report, ‘UK Health & Social Care – Frameworks Analysis’, estimates that, within the ICT sector, there are around 160 active frameworks each year, including 40 newly released frameworks, all originating from around 180 unique providers*.

Jonathan Cordwell, Principal Health & Social Care Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Although public buying organisations such as NHS Shared Business Services hold broad portfolios of frameworks, they can be issued by a wide variety of organisations such as the procurement departments of individual Trusts. This makes it difficult for both buyers and suppliers to identify the most appropriate and beneficial ones on offer, especially when there is little obligation to publish details.”

Given the drive for the use of open standards, being enforced by central entities such as NHSX, frameworks will play a vital role in filtering out suppliers that have historically relied on vendor lock-in and solutions that are not interoperable with other popular systems, while simultaneously offering SMEs the opportunity for greater market exposure.

Cordwell continues: “The shift towards an integrated care system (ICS) model will drive further adoption of frameworks to promote interoperable solutions within their respective regions, drive efficiencies and benefit from regional reporting, analysis and actionable insights. The Health Systems Support Framework (HSSF) issued by NHSE/I back in August 2018, is now specifically targeting population health initiatives for ICSs.”

While the government has made attempts to improve transparency across framework agreements, there are still numerous examples of unpublicised framework tenders, call-off contract awards, allocated suppliers etc. For example, there are only two publicised call-off contract awards from the aforementioned HSSF despite reports that 15 had been awarded as of September 2019.

Cordwell adds: “While improvements in transparency would bring about many benefits; there is also the possibility that complete transparency could result in collusion, bid-rigging and an additional administrative burden. For this reason, a happy medium would need to be negotiated with regards to the level of transparency but at the very least there should be a central aggregator that is able to collate a list of all available frameworks with search functionality that can be used by buyers, suppliers and internal/external analysts alike.”

* Building on findings from an analysis of over 420 publicised framework agreement tenders across UK Health and Social Care from 2010 onwards

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