As the fifth largest employer in the world with over 1.5 million employees, the NHS is a giant source of public sector business opportunities. As an organisation with entities across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the NHS is in continual need of goods, works and services provided by suppliers from across the UK and further afield. Suppliers are required for projects in a wide range of industries, from construction and infrastructure to computing systems and technology, and the opportunities are limitless if you know how to find them.

If your organisation is looking to win business with the NHS, you will need to be aware of the NHS Long Term Plan. Published on 7th January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan (formerly known as the 10-year plan) sets out the key ambitions for the service over the next decade, with a focus on how the service can meet the rising demands and maintain standards of care.

Supply2Gov can help your organisation win NHS tenders in your industry. In this blog, we focus on the factors organisations need to be aware of to increase their chances of winning NHS tenders.

Suppliers need to be efficient

With a population that is both growing and ageing, and with more people experiencing multiple health conditions, the demand for NHS services are more in demand now than ever. The NHS needs to provide greater care to an ever-growing and ever-changing population, while meeting budgetary and efficiency challenges. Procurement has a role in squaring this circle, with competition between a large pool of suppliers all of whom offer great quality goods, works and services at a competitive price leading to increased efficiency and value for money. With such a large and diverse market and the pressure to achieve value for money leading to buyers being increasingly open to innovation, there are always opportunities for new potential suppliers.

Both suppliers and buyers need to be more collaborative

A continual theme throughout the NHS Long Term Plan is the integration of care to meet the needs of the changing population. This means NHS organisations and local councils are increasingly going to be working together to form sustainable and transformative partnerships, in order to provide better and more joined-up care for patients. Joined-up care will help on with whole host of other issues, for example, using integrated systems to better understand data about local people’s health, which can then bring about change that can be tailored to individual needs. The same collaboration is required for suppliers looking to win NHS tenders. Your organisation will play be part of a wider NHS supply chain, therefore an ability to be adaptable and open to new ways of working is necessary.

In addition, as a smaller supplier with less experience in the marketplace than the ‘big players’, collaboration with other suppliers could open more contract opportunities to you, whether through joint bidding or through subcontracting in a large project. Networking and forging partnerships with other businesses in your sector and geographical area could help you win work with the NHS and wider public sector.

Collaboration is not only to help suppliers work together better – it’s for buyers across NHS organisations as well. Aggregated procurement helps buyers work together. Instead of every NHS organisation publishing a small contract with the same requirement – for example, all the hospitals in Glasgow need syringes – they will combine the need and publish one huge contract, quite often through a large agency such as Crown Commercial Service, NHS England or the Common Services Agency. Potential suppliers can then bid for certain segments of a large NHS contract, known as ‘lots’, instead of the full tender, or for a place on a framework agreement. All in all, this makes NHS tenders more accessible to smaller organisations, while providing value for money for buyers through reduced administrative costs and potential cost savings through bulk purchase. There is a great deal of potential winning business within the NHS, especially on framework agreements with hundreds of suppliers.

Suppliers need to look at innovative initiatives

Buyers within the NHS are always trying to save money, and there are many ways potential suppliers can help them achieve this through successful and innovative procurement. One of the easiest ways is to offer more than the bare bones goods, works or services that the tender requires. For example, if you want to bid to provide all the lighting within a hospital, offer free maintenance with the installation every month or every year. If you want to bid to provide all the uniforms hospital staff wear, include other clothes items for free with the price, or offer a bespoke laundry service for staff use. By offering buyers more than the basic requirement stated in the tender specification, you are offering better value for money, which could be a valuable incentive for buyers to pick you over other competitors as their supplier. As the NHS relies on tax-payers’ money and is constantly struggling to do more with less, value for money is a huge factor and talking point that potential suppliers need to address.

Suppliers need to actively search for NHS tenders

In order to increase your chances of winning NHS tenders, potential suppliers need to actively keep a look out for the right contract for them. Supply2Gov’s tender alerts tool allows you to receive NHS tender opportunities straight to your inbox, every day. The tender alerts can be based on the geographical location your organisation wants to grow business in, as well as the goods, works or services your business provides. This means that when you receive an email from Supply2Gov, you will know it is relevant to your organisation and can focus your efforts on writing your tender bid. If you don’t do your research or read the contract notice, you could miss out on immense opportunities in the healthcare sector.

Become part of the NHS supply chain

By using Supply2Gov’s tender alerts tool, we filter NHS tender opportunities based on your location and business interests and send the tender opportunities straight to your inbox, every day. Don’t miss the opportunity of winning NHS tenders.

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You may never have guessed it, but there is a huge market out there for winning business in the cleaning industry in the UK. According to the latest figures released by the British Cleaning Council, the cleaning industry contributes over £24 billion to the UK economy every year. It is also one of the largest employers, employing around 700,000 workers in full time work, who generally earn a wage higher than the national average. The sheer vastness of the industry means that a diverse range of tenders are available across the public and private sectors – the fact is that the majority of organisations will, at some point, require cleaning services.

Potential suppliers looking to grow in this sector have a high volume of opportunities open to them, from window cleaning to carpet cleaning to event cleaning, Supply2Gov can help you win cleaning tenders so you never miss an opportunity again.

 The public sector is always looking for cleaning services

Cleaning services are required daily for all kinds of public buildings, including:

  • Leisure centres
  • Schools
  • Hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and health clinics
  • Museums and art galleries
  • Prisons and police stations
  • Government and local authority buildings

All public buildings need to be maintained in a decent and usable condition, so the Government and wider public sector are continually looking for high quality and reliable cleaning services. Cleaning tenders will usually have a fixed duration and are highly competitive, so it is important to do your research on the contracting authority issuing the cleaning tender and the cleaning suppliers they have worked with previously.

The cleaning industry has a strong trading environment

Despite over 40,000 businesses operating in the cleaning industry, the market for contractors is dominated by a relatively small number of large or multi-service providers, as well as large and medium-sized specialist cleaning contractors. It is a competitive market where suppliers will need to prove high standards and high levels of efficiency, particularly for cleaning services in the healthcare sector.

However, there is good news for new businesses breaking into cleaning. According to the British Cleaning Council’s latest Industry Trends report, the number of SMEs working in the cleaning industry has significantly increased in the last five years. This has been helped by their innovative ways of reaching out to new clients, as well as businesses combining their services. One example is offering an end-to-end tenancy service for landlords, including cleaning as well as support services, including furniture removals. Many landlords simply do not have the time to conduct thorough cleans between tenants, so this is a good niche for a cleaning business which will drive business growth.

It’s important to be flexible

Cleaning is an incredibly personal business, and your clients will each have their own needs and requests. With this in mind, when applying for cleaning tenders, no matter where it is based – ensure your bid makes it clear that you are flexible and will respond to the buyer’s priorities and preferences. Look at specialising in a specific cleaning service first, for example, office building cleaning. Once you have gained good experience and evidence of projects you have successfully worked on, you will be in a better position to win larger cleaning tenders across multiple areas.

The cleaning industry of the future is looking to become more sustainable by integrating technology (such as cleaning robots) into their cleaning practices. This is part of an effort by the cleaning industry to increase efficiency and reduce the environmental impact from cleaning products. Make sure you are conscious of issues such as these when you are looking for cleaning tenders, and how you can best contribute to this positive change.

Find cleaning tenders big and small

Whether your business is looking to identify building maintenance cleaning, periodic deep cleans or window cleaning tenders, Supply2Gov can help your business find, apply for and win cleaning contracts with the public sector.

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There has never been a better time for your business to start winning construction tenders. The construction industry in the UK accounts for approximately 3 million jobs, providing a total of 10% of UK employment, and is a driving force for the UK economy. This means there are huge volumes of construction tenders out there to be won, if you have the right tools and market insight to get there. Supply2Gov specialises in helping organisations of all sizes that are new to procurement to find and win construction tenders that are right for their business. In this guide we explain how to give yourself the best chance of success.

Know what you are capable of

In the construction industry, the range of tenders available in the UK and the Republic of Ireland is vast. Plastering the wall of one classroom in one school may be a relatively simple tender, yet construction tenders can quickly become complex when it comes to building entire new hospitals or government buildings. Before you even start searching for construction tenders, a great first tip is to fully understand what your organisation can realistically achieve, taking into account your experience, size, location and financial situation. What do you want to gain from working in construction? What can your organisation offer that sets you apart from other organisations?

Once you understand your overall business strategy, and can deliver it with some conviction, it will be much easier to find the construction tender that is perfect for your business.

Make sure you meet the tender requirements

Once you have found the construction tender of your dreams, your next step is to ensure that you meet the minimum requirements. Do this by consulting the Contract Notice and the tender documentation. The Contract Notice will set out general information about the tender – the type of construction work required, the date when work on the project will commence and the contracting authority issuing the tender. Most importantly, it will state the minimum requirements your organisation will need to meet in order for you to apply for the tender. Examples of such requirements may be that all potential tenderers need to be an official registered member of a professional body, or be able to prove that they achieve a certain turnover each year.

Start small to win big

Tender requirements such as a minimum annual turnover can be a barrier for SMEs or micro-businesses to achieve, especially in the construction industry. With over 1.6 million organisations labelled as SMEs in the UK (according to PBC Today, February 2019 statistics), 20% of these are construction industry SMEs. Construction SMEs are a crucial driving force across both the sector and the wider UK economy. If your organisation is a construction SME, a great way to grow your business in procurement is by trying to win smaller construction tenders that bigger companies do not apply for. Build up your experience and grow your knowledge in procurement, showing that you have credible evidence of previous successful construction projects. This will enable you to build up a portfolio of previous public sector work – and references – to show that you have the experience and knowledge behind you to win the bigger construction tenders. In addition, winning public sector work may help you to grow your business and expand your reach.

Understand how your tender bid will be scored

The Contract Notice will state where you can download the full tender documentation, usually for free, which will contain all the details of the tender. You will need to read these documents thoroughly as they will include details of how the selection questionnaires and final tenders will be evaluated, and how each question will be scored by the contracting authority. Understanding the scoring and the weighting placed by the authority on each question is crucial to winning the tender. If the contracting authority states that 60% of your tender bid is scored on how environmentally friendly and sustainable the project is, it shows the authority’s priorities and indicates that you must focus your efforts on achieving this element, rather than – for instance – how cheaply you can deliver the requirement.

Get all your ducks in a row

Supply2Gov’s goal is to get your organisation ready to start tendering – if your organisation already has experience tendering, we can help you to rework your procurement strategy to achieve greater success. The first step in achieving this is by ensuring you have the basic requirements you need (your ducks) for you to complete your Selection Questionnaire (also known as an SQ). Most construction tenders will require you to complete an SQ before you are invited to tender. Think of it like a CV. You can view the list of documents you will need to have in order to submit your tender bid in our Tender Ready checklist once you register for free to Supply2Gov.

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Public sector procurement can be lucrative for suppliers but it can also be an immensely complex process. In this quick guide, Supply2Gov will explain the ins and outs of the procurement process, including details of what happens at each stage and defined definitions of terminology. By the end, your organisation should feel more confident to submit bids for public sector tenders in the future.

What is public sector procurement?

Public sector procurement is the acquisition by public authorities of goods, works and services through a public contract: for example, the supply of hospital beds and other furniture to a public hospital. The steps taken in this process may differ slightly from those outlined below depending on the value of the contract being awarded and the tendering procedure it follows.

1. The contract notice is published

A contract notice, otherwise known as an advertisement of the procurement opportunity to the market, is the first stage of the public sector tender process. It is the most fundamental requirement for a buyer to ensure that a broad range of organisations respond to the bid, encouraging healthy competition in the market. The contract notice will include just enough information about the project for an organisation to decide whether or not they will submit a bid. It summarises the object and scope of the contract and states the basic tendering conditions, such as the submission deadline.

In the European Union, standard contract notices over a certain value threshold are published in the OJEU, an accessible online platform which is free to use. Thousands of contracts are published on there every day from every country in the EU. To sift through them would take a huge amount of time and resource, which is why Supply2Gov’s tender alerts are here to help you maximise your productivity. More on that later.

2. Access the tender documents (call for tenders)

Once a contract notice has been published, organisations are invited to submit their tender bids to the public authority. To do this, organisations will need to obtain the full tender documents, including the detailed technical specifications. Thanks to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, especially Regulation 22, the vast majority of contracting authorities will use e-tendering tools or other online tools, so that all tender documentation is accessed and submitted online. You will need to make sure to read the tender documents thoroughly and understand exactly what the awarding authority requires before submitting. While you may see ways in which your business could add value, a bid which does not wholly meet the buyer’s actual requirements is very likely to fail.

It is important to note the difference in tone between contract notices and tender documents. Contract notices ideally should be written in a clear, honest and logical way so that they are easy to read. Tender documents, however, are heavy on legal conditions and reasons why tenders may be rejected. They are full of terminology and technicalities, but only because they need to be. Tendering conditions must be transparent in advance, so that firms cannot be rejected for reasons they didn’t know existed. The tender documents will also tell you about the selection and award criteria, which are the criteria against which your bid will be judged. Pay attention to these, and to any weightings, they include as they tell you what aspects of the contract the buyer considers most important.

What does contract value mean?

A contract value is the price of a public sector contract. Public sector contracts can range from several hundred pounds to multiple billions, depending on the size of the project and the public authority that issues the proposal. The contract value is not always publicised in the tender documentation, to avoid setting the wrong incentive for firms bidding. It is usually recommended to express the scope of the contract in terms of volume and not in terms of money, for example, ‘we will need 200 hospital beds every month over three years.’ Where the value is stated, contracting authorities are allowed to require bidding companies to have a turnover twice the value of the contract they are applying for. This is to prevent businesses becoming too dependent on one contract for their survival.

3. Submit questions and answers

Organisations typically have an opportunity to ask questions to clarify the call for tenders. Some public authorities may choose to set strict deadlines for the questions to be submitted by, some do not. The answers that are given in response to questions are made available to all firms interested in the tender to avoid exclusivity – this reflects the principle of equal treatment of tenderers. Sometimes questions may clarify mistakes that were made in the tender documentation, so all potential tenderers should be made aware of them.

4. Visit the premises of the project

In instances where the tender is construction work or where machinery needs to be installed, a contracting authority may set a requirement that tenderers inspect the location where the work is needed before they submit their bid. This is to ensure that tenderers have a realistic idea of what is expected of them, giving the project complete transparency. If this requirement is mandatory rather than just recommended, firms that do not take part in this stage of the procurement process may not tender.

There are pros and cons to demanding premises visits, though. A visit to the premises can limit the competition for the tender, given that it will add costs for. This can be particularly costly if the organisation is based far away. This cost of travel will be added on to the final price, which is then paid by the public authority anyway, so it is arguably more limiting than productive.

5. Submit your bid before the deadline

Writing a response to a tender is a demanding process, combining a vast amount of research over a relatively short time period (again – depending on how big the project is.) Tenderers need to be sure that they have answered all the questions carefully, especially the mandatory ones, and that questions with a higher scoring are given more weight and detail in their response. Often, several people work on aspects of a bid. Suppliers should get someone else to read the complete document through before submission to make sure it is consistent and there are no silly mistakes or annoying typos.

The essential thing for a tenderer is that they submit their bid on time. No matter how good their bid is, if it arrives even a few minutes late, it will automatically be rejected.

Build your procurement knowledge further with Supply2Gov. We offer blogs rich with resources and tips throughout the procurement process to help you win business. Your organisation can register for free to receive daily tender alerts filtered by geographical location and your business interests. This means you don’t have to search through thousands of public sector tenders every day, taking up valuable time and resource. Instead, you’ll receive relevant contracts straight to your inbox, giving you contract information at the touch of a button.

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