Putting purchasing power in safe hands

The Crown Commercial Service provides commercial services to the public sector, saving money for the taxpayer. Government Business analyses the latest news, policies and agreements.

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) brings policy, advice and direct buying together in a single organisation to: make savings for customers in both central government and the wider public sector; achieve maximum value from every commercial relationship; and improve the quality of service delivery for common goods and services across government.

Working with over 1,400 organisations in the public sector, CCS’s services are provided by more than 2,600 suppliers. The CCS is responsible for: managing the procurement of common goods and services, so public sector organisations with similar needs achieve value by buying as a single customer; improving supplier and contract management across government; increasing savings for the taxpayer by centralising buying requirements for common goods and services and bringing together smaller projects; and leading on procurement policy on behalf of the UK government.

Frameworks are a shortcut to access a wide range of products and services available directly from hundreds of different suppliers, helping companies and organisations navigate through the rules and regulations, saving both time and money.

The CCS is in place to make sure that small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs) have access to government contract opportunities, making it easier for them to do business with the government, and making sure that 25 per cent of government’s spend, either directly or in supply chains, goes to SMEs.

Understanding Brexit implications
Understandably, the CCS has been overwhelmed with questions regarding it’s procurement policies after Britain voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum result on 23 June. While much remains unknown, the department has assured that it remains ‘focused on delivering value for money for our customers and the taxpayer’ and will continue to advice ministers on longer term opportunities.

In the meantime, CCS will pursue with its plans to save between £140 million and £180 million on technology next year, as outlined in its 2016-17 business plan. With ambitious plans to help government departments and the wider public sector achieve further commercial benefits and savings from their spend on common goods and services in the year ahead, the plan reaffirms the department’s commitment to effective service delivery and in delivering the government’s objectives on procurement policy.

This includes increasing the volume of government spend with SMEs and implementing planned measures to support economic growth. The CCS has also said that the next year will see a number of milestones for the Crown Marketplace project, its digital platform for departments to find suppliers.

Growth for SMEs
Over 75 per cent of suppliers on the new Language Services agreement are SMEs. The Language Services agreement, developed in conjunction with suppliers, charities, regulatory bodies and customers, became live in May and is designed to ensure all public sector organisations have access to high quality language services at a sustainable price. Features of the new agreement include: coverage of 250 languages and dialects; a regional structure to provide increased opportunities for small businesses; the regional structure also supports sustainability by helping reduce carbon footprint through less travel; UK based, security cleared translators available to ensure confidentiality and security; a range of translation formats including braille, audio, large print and transcription; and the secure exchange of documents 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Language Services
As the main supply route for a number of public sector customers including NHS trusts, local councils and government departments, the Language Services agreement ensures that clients have access to quality interpreters, often at short notice, in an efficient and cost effective way. The objective of the agreement is to provide access to the right, quality services at a sustainable price. The agreement provides an enhanced scope of services through the use of technology, increased SME and regional presence, greater customer choice and flexibility, as well as supporting carbon footprint reduction.

Throughout the development of the agreement a wide range of stakeholders were consulted including suppliers, charities, regulatory bodies and customers. The regional structure ensures sufficient capacity and increased opportunities for a diverse supplier base including SMEs and supports sustainable procurement by helping companies reduce their carbon footprint.

Health services
CCS provides the NHS with a compliant way to source all of their agency staffing needs through five framework agreements that have been approved by NHS Improvement. Framework suppliers have formally signed up to contract variations to ensure that NHS Improvement price caps are contractually embedded and that an override mechanism is available, allowing NHS trusts to stay ‘on framework’ if they need to go over the price cap to ensure patient safety – but only where written permission has been given.

NHS Improvement has implemented a price cap on the amount of money that trusts can pay per hour for agency staff working for the NHS. Alongside the cap, new rules, which came into force on 1 April 2016, include a requirement that all agency staff sourcing must be done through approved framework agreements.

There are five CCS frameworks approved by NHS Improvement for suppliers to use. They are: Multidisciplinary Temporary Health Personnel (RM3711) – used to source all temporary clinical staff needs, across all health and social care job roles and pay bands; Non Medical Non Clinical (RM971) – to source temporary non-clinical staff in any office, clerical or manual role from the most junior to the most senior, including board level roles; Agency Nursing and Social Care (RM970) – for the supply of agency nurses and social care workers, covering the full range of job roles and bands; Allied Health Professionals, Health Science and Emergency Services Temporary Staff (RM959) – for the supply of allied health professionals, health science services and emergency services temporary staff; and Locum Doctors including Locum GPs (RM1570) – for the supply of temporary and fixed term locum doctors across the full range of grades and specialities, including general practitioners (GPs).

Richard Somerset, senior category manager, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said of the agreement: “Having attended two CCS workshops about agency staffing, I found the workshops to be useful, informative and beneficial. CCS staff were knowledgeable, helpful and willing to explain in detail the agency rules process and how it links to frameworks. The ability to network with peers was also invaluable.

“These workshops helped me to obtain a better understanding which helped to fuel my knowledge for a recent procurement Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospital (DBH) ran through the CCS RM3711 framework for Multidisciplinary Temporary Healthcare Personal. The help I received from CCS, and in particular Helen Hess, with regards to the procurement exercise DBH ran on behalf of three trusts, was of the highest standard and helped the trust complete a successful procurement that will save millions of pounds a year.”

Specialist Laundry Services
This agreement has been developed to provide cost-effective and quality controlled specialist laundry services for re-usable CE marked barrier textiles, such as surgical drapes and gowns. It is can be used by all public sector organisations and supports the Department of Health’s objective to enhance the safety and quality of services for users and patients.

The main services provided by suppliers are the processing (wash and finish) and transportation (collection and return) of re-usable surgical drapes, gowns and packs which are owned by the contracting authority or hired by the contracting authority from the supplier.

A range of additional services are also available through the agreement. These services are only available alongside the main services outlined above, and may incur further costs.

They include: weekend and Bank Holiday services; management of on‑site theatre top-up service; management of scrub suit/theatre garment locker service; barcoding/Radio Frequency Identification (RFID); and alteration/repair service. This specialised agreement follows on from the successful operation of the previous Laundry and Linen agreement (RM849), which expired on 24 May 2015. It complements the general services provided by Laundry and Linen Services (RM1031).

Vehicle Telematics
In May 2016 the CCS, the government department that provides commercial services and financial savings to the public sector, launched its latest framework agreement to help the public sector improve fleet safety and efficiency.

In a statement the CCS said it was ‘seeking to establish a pan government framework agreement for the provision of vehicle telematics goods and services to vehicles which are based and/or travelling throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, including the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and into Europe.’

The agreement, which was published on 4 May, has been designed to help organisations manage their fleets more effectively by improving safety and efficiency through the use of telematics technology. The CCS has claimed that through the realisation of such benefits, the public sector organisation should be able to save £3 for every £1 invested.

Telematics is currently used to allow fleet managers to monitor aspects of their fleet such as fuel consumption, vehicle tracking and driver behaviour, in order to identify ways to make significant cost savings.

An important part of mature fleet management is the collection and analysis of vehicle telematics data to reduce fleet costs, support employers’ duty of care obligations, increase productivity, improve vehicle security, manage legislative compliance and reduce carbon footprints. Vehicle telematics also supports the whole life cost management of vehicles by providing live, operational data.

The benefits of the agreement
The deal has been developed in partnership with police, ambulance, local government and central government customers and features a range of suppliers, including small and medium sized businesses. The 11 suppliers covered under the agreement includes LD Automotive, APD Communications, Ashwoods; E-Pire; EDC Systems (trading as Traffilog UK); Exeros Technologies; FMG Support; Greenroad Technologies UK; L and A consultants; and Ctrack. In addition, public bodies will be able to call off services from suppliers on the framework for the four year life of the contract.

By establishing an agreement for vehicle telematics for public sector organisations, the sector will see a range of benefits. Advantages include encouraging vehicle tracking which supports the management of risk involved in driver safety (including two-way communication), work planning and vehicle usage. In particular, by enabling fleet managers to have a better understanding of driver behaviour, they can help improve safety by identifying driver habits and can subsequently source appropriate training needs.

The agreement also offers the potential to achieve a reduction of insurance premiums as well as a reduction in emissions through effective driver behaviour management, fuel consumption efficiency and future vehicle selection. It aids whole life cost analysis and management by tracking servicing, maintenance and repair costs on vehicles.

Furthermore, for vehicles which are in private user schemes, the telematics agreement can help distinguish between operational and private use to help with expenses and tax returns; and supports duty of care and regulatory compliance.

According to the CCS, the vast majority of vehicles to be utilised under the framework will be cars and light commercial vehicles. However, suppliers will be required to provide data recording devices and associated equipment which are suitable for fitting into other types of vehicle including agricultural, construction equipment, plant and boats.

The value of savings
With regards to the savings methodology, the CCS explained the £3:£1 claim is based on the efficiencies and reduction in expenditure achieved in your fleet budget through things like: a reduction in fuel consumption; maximising vehicle usage; a reduction in accidents; and a reduction in insurance premiums.

The original tender documents from the contract have suggested that the total value of the framework could reach between £10.8 million and £24.3 million.
Starting on the 25 April 2016, the agreement is due to reach completion on the 25 April 2020.

Currently, only a limited number of manufacturers install telematics technology in their vehicles as standards. However given the rise of mobile Android and Apple apps, a black box is no longer necessary to gain access to the advantages of telematics. Nonetheless it has been pointed out that phone apps could be a potential distraction, especially as the phone needs to be in the vehicle to work.

A growing need for data
In an interview with the Financial Times, Ralph Morton, editorial director of Business Car Manager, advised that the use of telematics is set to grow considerably over the next few years. It is predicted that by the end of the decade, 75 per cent of vehicles produced will have some level of connectivity to the internet.

Morton said: “All our intelligence suggests that monitoring by telematics is increasingly accepted as a fact of life and the benefits more fully understood. Vehicles also generate data on how they are being driven – perhaps too much acceleration or speeding, for example – allowing companies to take intelligent decisions about driver training and to the benefit of fuel consumption and accident reduction.

“Reasons for breakdown and likely component failure rates can also be identified. Evermore importantly, it also allows fleets to demonstrate to insurers the levels of safety they have achieved, with the potential for reduced premiums.”

Digital Services 2
This is the second iteration of the Digital Services agreement, with Digital Services 1 having expired on 8 August 2015. Digital Services is a dynamic style framework with the specific aim of helping the public sector buy, design, build and deliver digital services using an agile approach, by procuring the appropriate people and resources to deliver agile software development. Digital Services has been built to create a diverse pool of specialist agile service providers to enable government and the public sector move traditional services to a user centric design service, which is lower cost and flexible to enable continuous development and improvement. It specifically enables and supports the government digital by default strategy and Cloud adoption.

The Digital Services 2 commercial agreement has been designed, in collaboration with the Government Digital Service using an agile approach, starting with user needs and business outcomes, with lots of customer and supplier engagement, feedback and further iteration.

For the first iteration of Digital Services, savings of £6.4 million were made against a spend of £14 million. As digital services are generally a new service with no previous spend to compare against, the benefit methodology is to take an average of all bids under the tender and compare to the winning bid.

The Digital Services 2 agreement supports the delivery of the Government Digital Strategy by: giving public sector customers easy access to suppliers with the right capabilities, who comply with the Digital by Default Standard and align with the Government Service Design Manual; providing a large, diverse pool of capable suppliers from small and medium size businesses to the agile practices of the traditional tier-one/system integration suppliers; ensuring supplier capacity to enable the delivery of digital projects at multiple UK locations; and providing a flexible and speedy route to meet customers’ digital project commissioning requirements.

Further Information

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