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Checklist for preparing to bid for new contracts

Dr Charles Alessi runs through a few crucial things to remember before submitting a bid for a contract to run a new service.

Dr Charles Alessi runs through a few crucial things to remember before submitting a bid for a contract to run a new service.

Assess the new environment

Do new developments pose an opportunity or a threat to your practice?

Consider new alliances

Look for allies and like-minded colleagues. Groupings based on philosophy of care are far more likely to succeed than those assembled by geography.

Obtain legally binding agreements

It is essential to get an agreement with your partner practices before starting on the bidding process.

Assess your costs

Calculate the real cost of delivering a service, remembering to attribute all fixed infrastructure costs and staff costs. Make sure you cost staff appropriately including all on-costs (such as national insurance, superannuation and training), as these will make a huge difference to hourly rates.

Build potential redundancy into your bid. If you are bidding on the basis of one individual offering a service, consider what happens if they go on holiday or sick leave. A service cannot be run intermittently.

Also remember to cost infrastructure including utilities, wear and tear and maintenance.

Look for efficiency savings

Are you sure you cannot perform a task more efficiently? Look at the skill mix – is a doctor really needed? Bigger numbers of more flexible disciplines means less risk of service gaps when people are on holiday or unexpectedly ill – and less use of locums.

Carefully consider your pricing

If you are really desperate to get the contract, it is tempting to offer a price that can be close to actual cost. Although some PCTs are still unsophisticated, and consider all primary care to be identical and homogeneous and so price the only determinant of success, one hopes World Class Commissioning will change this.

Set out governance rules

Make sure lines of accountability are clear and you know who is ultimately responsible when anything goes wrong.

Are clear policies in place? Are all clinical and non-clinical staff aware of them?

Also remember if your practice name is associated with the new venture, you are making use of your brand. Any adverse incident, which if an alliance or joint venture will inevitably be complex and potentially risky, may damage your brand – and this could affect your core business, especially if you are deemed culpable.

Analyse service viability

Your new service needs to attract patients if it is to be successful. Enquire of the PCT about mechanisms to list the new service under the choice directory of services. Also remember you cannot rely on ‘closed loops', where your patients fill the slots in your new service. Remember you have to manage patient choice and be seen to be doing so. Relationships with adjacent practices are likely to be one of the critical factors for success.

Have a plan B

Finally, consider what your fallback position is if you are unsuccessful in the bidding process. Remember not to burn all your bridges in case you need to reassess the situation after the process is complete.

Dr Charles Alessi is a GP in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, and medical director of the Kingston Co-operative Initiative

Dr Charles Alessi Dr Charles Alessi

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