‘Innovation and quality’ key to securing wheelchair service tenders, CCG says

With wheelchair services evolving and competition for contracts increasing, it is as important as ever for current and prospective providers to know what CCGs look for in equipment firms. Here one CCG outlines the things most attractive to commissioners in would-be wheelchair service providers. 

The firms battling it out for CCG wheelchair service and community equipment contracts have to meet high demands. As one of the world’s leading healthcare providers, people expect the NHS services to be second to none but at the same time the public service is coming under immense financial constraints.

As a result, community equipment and wheelchair service providers have to mould their offering to so that they can provide local authorities and residents with impeccable service but on a very slim budget. The companies that are able to strike the right balance are the ones securing tenders year after year.

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Recently, Millbrook Healthcare, a major community equipment supplier in the UK, secured a new five-year tender to supply a service to Hertfordshire. The company’s service has already been running for the last 18 months but has been extended after Herts Valleys and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group awarded Millbrook the contract.

What then did Millbrook do correctly to win its latest contract? To put it simply, Marie Ahern, planned care commissioning manager of Herts Valleys CCG, says Millbrook was the higher scorer in the CCG’s invitation to tender (ITT) process, which is the initial step in competitive tendering, where providers are invited to showcase their offers.

On the face of it then, winning tenders like this sounds like a fairly simple task — simply present the CCG with the best quality service offer for the best price. But as both CCGs and providers know, rarely is it that simple.

When selecting a wheelchair service or community equipment provider, Ahern says the key elements decision makers look for are “innovation, quality and service-user focus”. Millbrook’s new service attempted to put weight behind its focus on service users with its efforts to cut wheelchair waiting times.

Ahern has a number of things she values most in providers. “A service user and carer focus is critical. Ensuring that a holistic service that is well-connected with stakeholder services is also vital. If you get both right often the rest follows.”

When asked if she expects the CCG’s requirements from providers to change over the next five years, she replies: “I would expect further innovation on how they respond to the user need, meeting the CECOP’s accreditation standards, and further progression on [wheelchair waiting times] and personal wheelchair budgets.”

From an NHS point of view budgets are being squeezed and there is a perception among many people in the mobility supply chain that CCGs are looking predominately at price in their service providers. But is this a fair assumption?

“From a Hertfordshire perspective, this is not the case; finance was weighted at 30%. CCGs are under pressure to ensure they are commissioning the most efficient service for their population. This is very important,” explains Ahern.

A quality offering is therefore clearly a priority for CCGs in spite of the cash pressures on them. As with all sectors in the mobility industry, an appropriate, efficient, reliable and safe proposition is still held above all else. Whether a cheaper offering will become more attractive as funding becomes a tighter issue for local authorities remains to be seen. For now though, most in the sector would agree that service cannot come at the expense of cost.

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