NHS Shared Business Services has issued a tender for a new clinical information systems framework worth up to £1.25 billion over six years.

It says the framework is intended to help NHS trusts save money and time by avoiding the full OJEU procurement process.

The tender is split into six lots. Lot one, with an estimated value of £10m to £800m, covers core healthcare clinical information systems.

The other lots are for integrated emergency care clinical systems; theatre clinical systems; child health systems; maternity systems; and specialist electronic prescribing systems.

NHS SBS argues that the framework will enable trusts to avoid going out to OJEU tender, which can take up to a year and cost tens of thousands of pounds.

Instead, trusts will be able to hold “mini-competitions” among suppliers listed on the framework that can be completed in a shorter timeframe and at less cost.

Peter Akid, the director of procurement for NHS SBS, told EHI: “If you look at the OJEU process, it’s very valid and it does the job it’s supposed to do.

“But it can take an awful lot of time to get through the process, and trusts aren’t getting the economies of scale from the market.”

Akid also argued that the framework will be an advantage for suppliers as it will reduce the number of tenders they need to submit, while opening up the market by bringing in more trusts.

NHS SBS set up a major framework contract to cover digital imaging systems and related technology as the National PACS Programme drew to a close.

So far, nothing similar has been created for trusts looking at the end of the electronic patient record elements of the programme. However, some big regional framework contracts have been let, with one trust acting as the lead for others.  

For example, in March it was announced that ten suppliers had won places on a framework contract to supply news systems to mental health and community trusts in the South.

While in July last year, three software companies won places on a framework contract for London trusts looking at the end of their NPfIT Cerner Millennium contracts.

Akid said the organisation is confident that it will be able to procure a national framework that can still fit the local needs of trusts.

He said NHS SBS will manage the framework with “rigorous” supplier testing to ensure complete governance and a compliant route to market.

 “This initiative represents how a more strategic approach to procurement frameworks, based on a thorough examination of what trusts will actually need in the future, can deliver far greater savings and benefits,” he argued.

The tender says the framework agreement will last for a period of four years, with an option to extend a further two years.

It anticipates that contracting authorities will require “the replacement and support, on a product and potentially managed service basis, of complex and advanced healthcare clinical information system managed services that will need to be phased in over a significant period of time” – and the framework must be competitive over that period.

The framework agreement is due to be operational at the end of the year, and will be open to any NHS trust to access.  Tenders for the framework must be submitted by 30 September.