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A year ago on Tuesday, NHS Supply Chain, the national procurement agency tasked with supplying goods and products to trusts up and down the country, put out a call for a company to come and fulfil its logistics service. 

It issued an invitation to tender for firms to bid to provide it with core logistics services — driving NHS supplies from warehouses to trusts — as well as help transform its warehouse network in a contract worth £4.4bn and lasting up to 12 years. 

Fast forward 12 months and the procurement process has hit a snag. NHSSC is currently being sued by at least one, probably two, logistics companies that wanted to get the contract but failed to get on to the shortlist. 

One of those companies, Unipart, is the incumbent supplier and has been for the past five years. Its current contract expires in a few months and it believes NHSSC made errors in how it scored its bid and was unlawfully excluded from the shortlist. 

NHSSC rejects this, saying Unipart’s claim amounted to “a misconceived attempt to undertake an expansive review and re-mark of the scores given”. 

The case at the High Court in London continues.

Tough tendering, part 2

NHS England has been forced to cancel a proposed £300m framework for digitising GP services after being sued by a technology company, HSJ has learned.

The digital pathways framework, which has an estimated £300m contract value, was set to be used by integrated care boards to bring in approved suppliers of tools such as messaging, digital consultations and care navigation.

This was to drive a rapid move to “modern general practice” as part of the two-year primary care recovery plan published by government and NHSE in spring 2023. 

However, in February, the tender process was suspended when technology company iPlato sued NHSE, having been excluded for submitting a video, which NHSE said omitted key information.

Now, in its latest notice to bidders for the framework, seen by HSJ, NHSE said the procurement process was “ending”.

It cited delays due to the legal process and general election next month, meaning it would not have “sufficient time” to get the framework in place this year.

NHSE told HSJ that further options for suppliers of digital pathways products will be confirmed in “due course”, but did not offer further detail on how or when the funding attached to the programme will be used.

ICBs have been told to continue current arrangements where possible.

Also on

In Mental Health Matters, Annabelle Collins looks at the biggest challenges that will face the next government, and we report that NHS organisations across the South West are planning a “regional medical rate card” in a bid to reduce pay for additional work.