Start date: Monday 12 April 2021
Value: £950,000
Company size: SME

National and local standards for digital and technology services in health: strategic partner

32 Incomplete applications

26 SME, 6 large

51 Completed applications

39 SME, 12 large

Important dates

Thursday 21 January 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 28 January 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 4 February 2021 at 11:59pm GMT


Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Summary of the work
NHSX is looking at how to adapt existing national approaches to digital and technology standards for local health and social care organisations, in a proportionate, supportive way.

We need to run an alpha to test different approaches, to inform beta proposals by June 21 and subsequent beta delivery in 21/22.
Latest start date
Wednesday 10 March 2021
Expected contract length
18 months. March to June - Alpha phase. July onwards – Beta phase.
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Budget range
First work package covering alpha and scoping/prioritising beta, to end June 2021: £200-350k. Subsequent work packages covering beta delivery of the agreed options to March 2022, on a call-off basis, are expected to be in the region of £150-200k in total.

About the work

Why the work is being done
The NHSX assurance and standards team, within the digital transformation team, supports the health and care system to realise the benefits of digital, data and technology to deliver better end to end services for users. The team implements Cabinet Office spending controls and assesses services against cross-government and NHS service standards. By doing this, we support health and care organisations to build excellent services, achieve good outcomes for patients and professionals and achieve value for money.
Problem to be solved
NHSX implements Cabinet Office digital and technology spend controls and service standards for DHSC and national health and care bodies. The Tech Vision described the need to mandate technology standards across health and care settings and ensure compliance to those standards. NHSX has committed to look at how spend controls and standards could be adapted for local health and social care organisations. There are many ways we could work with the sector to do this and we need to design and test different options.
Who the users are and what they need to do
NHS staff who buy, build, design and commission digital or technology. As a CIO, I want to choose solutions that are compliant with standards so that we deliver excellent services. As a CIO, I want one list of standards so that I can easily check I’m meeting them. As NHSX, I want to help organisations buy compliant, interoperable technology so that system-wide benefits of open standards are realised. As NHSX, I want any approach to local spend to be proportionate and supportive so we help make it easier for the NHS to deliver great services.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
Discovery on local spend completed Aug - Nov 2019. Alpha started then paused March 2020. Short discovery-alpha on national standards Nov 2021. A summary of findings will be made available to shortlisted suppliers to inform the written proposal.
Existing team
A small team of civil servants with some contractor support. We are seeking a supplier to provide a full team.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Any location. The team (based London and Leeds) currently works remotely. When normal office working resumes, suppliers must be willing to travel within England e.g. to NHSX and NHS locations.
Working arrangements
Agile. The supplier needs to be flexible to meet the needs of the project and to be able to carry out testing and research around the needs of participants. When normal office working resumes, the supplier must be willing to travel within England to NHSX and other NHS locations.
Security clearance

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • "Experience of a wide range of research and service design methodologies for articulating and validating concepts and seeking buy-in from different audiences.
  • Experience of using service design and/or research insights to identify and prioritise options and to shape longer-term strategy and delivery plans
  • Experience of planning, recruiting for, running and reporting on complex engagement/consultation activities
  • Experience of applying the principles of user-centred design in a policy development context
Nice-to-have skills and experience
Demonstrate understanding of the NHS in England gained via experience working with health or care services.

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Provide a case study which demonstrates how your design approach has informed wider policy or strategic decisions
  • Ability to translate strategic objectives into clear research/design plans and project road maps
  • Organisational capability to meet our needs throughout the life of the contract, including providing a rate card based on DDaT job families
  • Essential skills from stage 1
Cultural fit criteria
  • Demonstrate how you have established trusted advisory relationships with senior stakeholders in large, complex organisations
  • Outline your style and approach to working transparently & collaboratively when making decisions and recommendations
  • Describe recent experience of recruiting a diverse workforce and your contribution to creating a more diverse digital and tech sector
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Please provide the name of a) the organisation which completed the Discovery and b) the organisation which began the original Alpha?
The discovery and alpha were completed in-house with a small team of civil servants and contractors. A summary of the findings will be made available to shortlisted suppliers.
2. 2. Can you please provide an indicative total budget across Alpha and Beta phases?
Indicative budget for alpha and beta is £500-550k. However, the timeline, approach and resource required for beta will be determined by work in alpha. Shortlisted suppliers will be asked for detailed pricing on the alpha phase only plus rate card for further work packages.
3. Why was the original Alpha phase paused?
The alpha phase was paused in March 2020 due to the need to redeploy staff to critical Covid work.
4. Is there a current incumbent?
No, there is not a current incumbent.
5. I wish to check the following:

1. Expectation of Digital Transformation strategy.
2. Innovation through Cloud capabilities
3. Data Analytics innovation
The question does not look applicable to this bid. Is this a mistake? If it is applicable to this bid, we can clarify that there is no expectation of innovation in cloud or analytics as part of this work. The project is relevant to digital transformation in the health and care sector and the evaluation criteria relevant to this are set out in the opportunity.
6. Please can you clarify what the anticipated outcomes and activities are for the Beta stage?
Beta activities will be determined by 'design and test' work and engagement/consultation during the alpha phase, but we hope that we will implement a beta either in some types of organisation or for some types of activity, before scaling up to wider rollout. We are not expecting pricing for the beta stage other than rate card as there are a number of approaches we could take to beta delivery.
7. Would you expect the winning bidder to do the Beta as well? For the Beta phase could the winning bidder use a trusted partner to deliver the implementation?
This is our intention and we will need further support to move to beta delivery; further work packages for beta will be agreed on a call-off basis as the alpha phase will determine the beta approach. Do we need to say this does not exclude us using other partners? I would rather not say that, if we don't have to. It is open to bidders to propose partnership or sub-contract arrangements.
8. Is the Beta phase subject to a separate procurement on the DOS 5 platform?
9. Can you tell us the roles of the current team members, both civil servants and contractors?
We are currently recruiting to a number of permanent and contract vacancies. Current staff = SRO; project lead; product manager; subject matter experts; delivery management. In-house roles we are recruiting include policy lead, legal, commercial, programme support.
10. What are you expecting the supplier to provide in terms of a ‘full team’?
It is open to suppliers to propose the team which would deliver the alpha outcomes. We would expect this at alpha to include the following capabilities as a minimum: user research; service design; content design; business analysis; participant recruitment and engagement; policy design; (working with in-house policy team members); communication and engagement; delivery management and planning.
11. After the COVID-19 restrictions are removed, would you be expecting the team to be full-time in the office, or would remote working still be possible?
Remote working would still be possible as long as the supplier was able to travel to meet the requirements of the project, e.g. to NHS trusts and to NHSX offices in London/Leeds when required. We would not expect full-time office attendance.
12. Can you provide a detailed timeline of activities from invitation to the second round and the start date of the engagement (including cooling-off periods)?
The expected timeline between now and the award of a contract is as follows:

Advert closes: 3rd Feb

Shortlisting of bids: 4th to 16th Feb

Request proposals from shortlisted suppliers: 17th Feb to 1st March

Evaluate proposals: 2nd March to 12th March

Award contract/start of contract
13. What is meant by ‘Experience of planning, recruiting for, running and reporting on complex engagement/consultation activities’? Is this regarding recruitment for user research? Is this regarding general consulting or more formal consultation?
The scope of this is wider than recruitment for user research though of course we expect user research/testing with trusts to form a large part of the alpha work. This is a significant change programme. We expect to need wide engagement across different types of NHS networks and organisations to support scaling/beta roll-out. We expect the supplier to support planning of this activity in alpha and then support delivery of this activity in beta . There will be some in-house resource to support this work in beta but suppliers must have experience of planning and supporting this kind of activity.
14. Please provide an example of a digital standard.
Please provide an example of a technology standard.
Please confirm how you mandate standards at national level.
Please explain how you ensure compliance of standards at national level.
The standards and approach we take to compliance at a national level are described here:
15. Please detail why the Alpha stage was not completed by the previous supplier?
The alpha was carried out by internal staff and paused due to the need to redeploy those staff on to critical COVID projects.
16. Please detail whether you are looking to build a product or a service?
This is yet to be determined and there are various approaches we could take which we will explore in alpha.
17. “NHSX is looking at how to adapt existing national approaches”, please could you provide examples of “existing national approaches”?
The approach we take to spend controls at a national level is set out here:
18. For each question, do you want us to describe results and impact of our work in each answer?
It is open to suppliers how they respond to the questions.
19. Is the indicative budget range VAT (Value Added Tax) inclusive or exclusive?