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United Kingdom-Belfast: Health and social work services
Voluntary ex ante transparency notice
Section I: Contracting authority/entity
Main address: www.communities-ni.gov.uk
Address of the buyer profile: https://etendersni.gov.uk/epps
Section II: Object
DSD Medical Support Services
DfC is placing this voluntary transparency notice to alert economic operators of its intention to modify the Medical Support Services Contract with the incumbent supplier in accordance with Regulation 72(1)(c). The Contract Variation shall provide for an extension of up to two (2) years 01 August 2021 — 31 July 2023. This transparency notice does not place any obligation on the authority to enter into this modification.
Continuation of the provision of work capability assessment services in Northern Ireland.
For full details of the nature of the services please see OJEU 2007/S 063-077231.
Section IV: Procedure
On 5 March 2020, DWP published a PIN signalling its intent to re-procure its Health and Disability Assessment Services contract for the provision of Work Capability Assessment services in England, Scotland and Wales. The Department for Communities agreed to join the procurement with Northern Ireland constituting a separate Lot. The re-procurement of the HDAS Contract was in accordance with Section 7 of the PCR 2015. However, the Covid-19 pandemic began impacting on the UK, in particular for the Department, impacting both the delivery of health assessment services, and the planned launch of the procurement. The continuation of the provision of services under the current contract over a period of 2 years has become necessary.
Regulation 72(1)(c) PCR allows:
(i) The need for modification has been brought about by circumstances which a “diligent contracting authority” could not have foreseen. Covid-19 is a unique event whose impact could not have been foreseen; and
(ii) The modification does not alter the overall nature of the contract; The services to be provided by the incumbent will remain consistent and there will be no alteration to the overall nature of the Contract, and.
(iii) The modification does not exceed 50 % of the original contract value.
The price to be paid for the extended period of the Contract does not exceed 50 % of the original value of the Contract, (iv) DfC will publish a Modification Notice pursuant to Regulation 72(3) of PCR. Please see Section VI.3 below for additional information.
Section V: Award of contract/concession
Section VI: Complementary information
The impact of Covid-19 on health assessment services has been, and continues to be significant. DfC has had to act quickly to implement a number of changes to service delivery, both to ensure the health and wellbeing of the public, its own employees and health assessment provider staff, and in response to the effect of the pandemic on the capacity of DfC and its assessment provider to deliver health assessment services. These changes include the temporary suspension of face to face assessments, and the introduction of telephony based assessments. The changes implemented to date, and the unknown impact of future waves of the pandemic on service delivery, are challenges to DfC’s efforts to stabilise the service in advance of any procurement. Given that Work Capability Assessments (WCA) undertaken as part of the Contract Services support critical statutory welfare benefits catering for vulnerable people, a gap in service provision is not an option. DfC has therefore concluded that extending the existing MSS Contract for up to 2 years is the best option for:
(i) stabilising Work Capability Assessment services,
(ii) ensuring a continuous service for these complex and vitally important services, which support delivery of statutory welfare benefits to vulnerable claimants each year and
(iii) allowing DfC to fully understand and evaluate the impacts of Covid-19 ahead of any future procurements or decisions on service delivery.
DfC will continue to implement steps to secure further efficiencies and service improvements in the way that the existing Contract is currently delivered and in particular throughout the extension period and will monitor performance in order to demonstrate value for money. DfC, partnering with DWP, intends to continue engaging with the market to discuss the future transition of Work Capability Assessment services and the future of health assessments more broadly. DfC will build in periodic reviews (4-6 monthly) to identify whether longer or shorter extensions than 24 months are needed.
The Public Contract Regulations 2015 provide for aggrieved parties who have been harmed or are at risk of harm by a breach of the rules to take action in the High Court (England, Wales and Northern Ireland). The authority has incorporated a standstill period before this contract is awarded.