SMEs prevail in expanded FutureNHS tender

Health service is looking to procure a larger sharing and collaboration platform for health and social care

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are rushing to take part in a tender that aims to create an expanded version of the FutureNHS service.

According to NHS England and NHS Improvement, the intention is to create an online sharing platform for health and social care that will build on the existing arrangement.

The project budget range for discovery is £100,000-£200,000, while the alpha phase will pay between £200,000 and £400,000 and the beta phase will spend between £900,000 and £1.2m. The closing date for applications is 3 December 2019 and work is due to start in January 2020.

Three suppliers will be evaluated. At the time of writing, there were 33 incomplete applications for the tender, of which 27 were from SMEs and six from large suppliers. Two applications, both from SMEs, had been completed.

According to NHSE/I, the project comes from a “significant need” for collaboration across the health and care system and the realisation that a platform to support online sharing, learning and connections between people is “vital”.

However, the NHS bodies note that the complexity of the system led to many disparate solutions to collaboration being developed, and supporting organisations can be challenging because of factors such as lack of interoperability, which makes collaboration more difficult.

The issue of multiple platforms that do not talk to each other generates a number of issues, including duplication of work and divergence across applications. Interoperability across the health and care system is one of the key areas that digital unit NHSX is seeking to address.

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The planned single, expanded platform is expected to address these problems by enabling collaboration across organisational boundaries and silos. The project is currently in the discovery phase, where users have been identified, user research to identify challenges in collaboration has been done, and ideas gathered of what an ideal platform might look like.

Skills and experience for the project include a range of requirements, ranging from experience of agile product development and user-centred design to expertise in creating living documentation via a “wiki” approach and live product support. Nice-to-have skills include NHS or public sector experience and in projects using Government Digital Service (GDS) manual standards and taking projects through phases of GDS assessment.

Even though work on the platform can be done remotely, the team involved in the FutureNHS project currently meet once a week in London. The chosen supplier will need to meet the project lead and other FutureNHS team members face to face, where needed, for at least three days a week.

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