The NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (PASA) has announced the successful first month’s trial of its new electronic tendering system, and that the system will now be permanently installed.

The web-based e-tendering software, supplied by BravoSolution, will now handle all invitations to tender and submissions by suppliers. The system allows buyers and suppliers to browse through current listings by date with a simple-to-use interface.

Suppliers will be able to register and receive personalised invitations to tender, and send replies to organisations through the website. They will be able to access the e-tendering system free of charge, as well as a helpdesk.

According to PASA, electronic procurement is not being used by enough NHS organisations, and e-tendering has the capability of transforming the way that they buy products as well as saving money.

Joe Walsh, head of e-procurement at PASA, told E-Health Insider that a number of other NHS organisations were on the point of also signing up to use the new system.

"There are clear benefits in not following the paper chase," said Walsh, adding that using a single computer-based system helped ensure compliance with purchasing policy and allowed suppliers to see all invitations to tender in one place.

Another advantage, explained Walsh, was that because it is web-based no software or extra infrastructure needs to be installed for using the system.

The software is not charged for by event but by the number of users. NHS organisations who wish to sign up to use it will need to enter into separate contracts with BravoSolution.

In its February 2004 report into the importance of e-procurement, upon which the implementation of the new system is based, PASA says that the actual technology involved in introducing such a system is less of an issue than changing processes: "It is not the technology that is the most difficult obstacle. The key challenge when implementing e-procurement is influencing the hearts and minds of stakeholders.

"Implementing e-procurement effectively involves changing the way people have been working for many years."

PASA has also announced pre-agreed contracts for eighty-four different technology firms for the supply of voice, video and data products and services.

These services range from call centre networks, lone worker monitoring systems, wireless networking and communications security. The contract covers companies of all sizes, including Cable & Wireless, Telewest and Kingston Communications.

Although no recommended prices have been set by PASA, the contract has been designed to allow organisations to obtain quotes rapidly from the suppliers on its list. PASA also recommends that NHS organisations that are not familiar with the companies involved make them compete.