Public Services > Healthcare

Network suppliers raise concerns over HSCN Access Services terms

David Bicknell Published 28 August 2017

Proposed dynamic purchasing system would streamline procurement, but suppliers, given little notice to comment, warn over 300 pages of contractual and supporting documentation may be off-putting for SMEs


Networking suppliers have raised several concerns over draft terms and terms and conditions for a framework agreement for Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) Access Services.

The framework agreement (RM3825) has been envisaged to be a dynamic purchasing system (DPS) which offers the benefit of streamlining procurement for both suppliers and authorities in that suppliers don’t have to demonstrate suitability and capability every time they wish to compete for a public sector contract, and the award of individual tenders can be quicker than under some other procedures.

According to the networking vendors group Innopsis, RM3825 will be open to all suppliers who can meet both the mandatory requirements to join throughout its duration and HSCN Compliance. But it warned its members that RM3825 introduces new terms and conditions to the supplier market.

Last week Innopsis encouraged its members to respond to the draft terms and conditions proposed by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), tweeting that CCS had given suppliers only three days to respond with comments in peak holiday time by Thursday August 24th. 

It said, “Due to the very short project timescales demanded of the HSCN user community, CCS has asked Innopsis to issue the current advanced draft contract to interested suppliers ( which can be found here ). This is still in draft and will be subject to further amendment prior to formal publication. 

“At this stage, CCS are very keen to receive your feedback on the draft DPS agreement by Thursday 24th August. We appreciate this provides little time for your consideration, but this is due to the demand of users to have a HSCN agreement in place to allow the procurements in planning to progress.”

Several of the 62 comments from suppliers are critical of the terms and conditions,

One noted, “The Q & A at the Supplier Event on 25th July stated that “Suppliers need to be stage 1 compliant to be able to bid for an opportunity and stage 2 at the point of award. In the Draft Agreement terms, Schedule 2, 2.7: “For the Supplier to tender to provide HSCN Connectivity Services, the Supplier must have successfully completed the HSCN Compliance stage 2 and been awarded the HSCN Assurance Mark”. These are clearly conflicting positions.

“The second position excludes all suppliers that have achieved Stage 1 Compliance and will be proceeding through Stage 2 Compliance when the first HSCN procurements are launched. We estimate this could affect over 50% of suppliers and therefore, rule out this significant proportion of the market.

Please confirm that the draft agreement terms will be amended to reflect the previous guidance to deliver the desired outcomes of a competitive marketplace for HSCN with minimal transition risk.

Another comment said, “I can see that the principle of DPS could work well for small requirements for a single site or a small multiple of single sites. i.e. customer wants HSCN connections to a handful of sites where there is no additional design required. What I can’t square this with is the 350 pages of contractual and supporting documentation. We have a five page order form for private companies ordering single HSCN connections, which includes the mandatory clauses.”

A third vendor said, “Our main comment is that the terms appear to be based on the terms for RM1045 and are quite lengthy, at 109 pages for the framework agreement and 219 for the call-off.

“Whilst this may well be suitable for the proposed aggregated procurements this seems overly onerous for situations where customers may want to purchase a small number of circuits and may be off-putting for those customers. It may also be off-putting for SMEs that do not have experience of delivering services via Public Sector Frameworks and will potentially introduce an overhead for suppliers in general as they may need additional contract and/or service management resource to ensure that the services are delivered in line with these terms rather than suppliers own terms and conditions.

“Our suggestion to address this would be to either simplify these terms or to provide an alternative mechanism for procuring small numbers of circuits where suppliers would be able to provide the services on their standard terms and conditions with a contract variation that would ensure that HSCN obligations were met.”

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