Procurement is where a commissioner chooses a provider to deliver a service, usually based upon a written specification. There are four types of procurement procedures in common use across the public sector:

The open procedure: You’ll be asked to return a tender by a set date. All tenders will be evaluated before the contract is awarded. This procedure is often used by local councils.

The restricted procedure: This is a 2-stage process. In the first stage, interested providers are asked to fill out a questionnaire and a short-list is drawn up. In the second stage, the shortlisted providers are invited to respond to an invitation to tender (ITT). The tenders are then evaluated and the contract awarded.

The competitive dialogue procedure: This procedure is used for more complex procurements. After a selection process, the buyer then negotiates with providers and invites chosen companies to put in a bid. Providers put in their tenders and the contract is awarded.

The negotiated procedure: In this procedure, the buyer enters into contract negotiations with one or more providers.

The Local Government Association is developing a new National Procurement Strategy for Social Care Services and a range of tools for use by local authorities. These will reflect the intent of the Care Act 2014, the Children and Families Act 2014 and Commissioning for Better Outcomes. The strategy and tools will give procurement officers and commissioners ways to develop integrated commissioning and to develop provider markets in their area.

Of particular interest are:

  • A provider protocol: setting out good practice in commissioning relationships with providers to provide assurance to both parties
  • Myths about procurement: a resource to share with stakeholders which is designed to promote a better understanding of the powers and restrictions of procurement
  • Go Lab - A how to guide on procurement: A technical guide to good procurement practice in outcome-based commissioning 

For providers, there are some great tendering tips on the Tenders' Direct Blog.