Taking a holistic approach to procurement helped NHS England design a better solution for Child Health Information Services in the West Midlands, says Surinder Kahlon, Senior Procurement Manager at NHS Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit.
Comprehensive screening and immunisation for children under five is crucial in safeguarding the health of some of the UK’s most vulnerable patients. Accurate recording of those tests and treatments can be compromised if records get lost, particularly if patients move areas.
NHS England identified a need to procure a solution which would enable a more collaborative approach to managing Child Health Information Services (CHIS) across the West Midlands and parts of the North Midlands area. Working in partnership with NHS England’s local offices in these areas, NHS Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit’s (CSU) procurement team developed and delivered a process which has not only resulted in an effective, cost-saving solution, but which identified new and more productive ways of working which look set to improve CHIS over the long term.
Understanding the challenge
In 2013, NHS England assumed responsibility for the direct commissioning of Child Health Information Services (CHIS). CHIS consists of three components: an IT system; the Child Health Information System (CHIS); a child health records department (CHRD); and a personal child health record (PCHR), otherwise known as the Red Book.
NHS England engaged Arden & GEM CSU to procure a new solution across the West Midlands and parts of the North Midlands area. The main objectives were to ensure:
- Safer systems, so that no children were missing from the records
- All records were accurate and up to date
- Fail-safes were in place to collect all key data
- Assurance that all children were protected
- The system supported the healthy child programme
- The system supported all childhood screening and immunisation programmes
- Accurate immunisation ‘Cover Data’ in the areas and region.
A holistic approach
In partnership with NHS England’s project team, we established a steering group made up of representatives from different areas within the region. A facilitated session delved deeper into the requirements of the CHIS, and a thorough review of current service provision established a clear case for change.
Information systems were identified as a clear challenge with technology described as complex, disparate and fragmented. The provider review was able to specifically focus on this issue and establish that existing systems required upgrades and significant enhancement in order to become optimal, fit for purpose and interoperable. This intelligence was key to informing the options appraisal, which identified four clear options for change:
- To do nothing
- To do the minimum
- To select a number of new CHIS providers across the West Midlands sub region
- To select a single provider for the West Midlands sub region.
Gaining market intelligence
Extensive market engagement was key to the procurement. As well as a market questionnaire, we organized a bidder engagement event which attracted more than 110 attendees from a variety of NHS and private sector organisations. Our chosen options were presented to the market and a series of breakout sessions were conducted to seek feedback and explore specific aspects in greater detail. This engagement was instrumental in developing a clear procurement direction and a preferred option of procuring a single service provider for all the existing contracts.
A competitive open tendering process commenced in July 2015 and the tenders were evaluated by officers from Public Health England, NHS England and Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Arden & GEM provided a bespoke methodology with an inbuilt moderation process to ensure robust, transparent assessment across the organisations involved. The methodology was also designed to ensure that bids were evaluated to ascertain the most economically advantageous tender. The procurement was completed and contract successfully awarded on schedule in November 2015.
This project has standardized the approach across the whole of the West Midlands, reducing IT systems from four to one, minimising duplication of effort and simplifying contract management. Significant savings have been achieved based on current contract values and the procurement will lead to estimated financial savings of £4.4m over the five year contract period. Most importantly, the new system will ensure records are never lost and that they remain accurate and up to date – helping to ensure every child receives the immunisations and screenings they need to stay safe.
For more information about Arden & GEM’s procurement services, click here.