Dear Member, As you are no doubt aware, the deadline for the National Procurement Framework for Care and Support (NPF) is 12th November. Scottish Care is eager to play our part in ensuring that the current model of commissioning is changed to ensure that it better reflects a rights-based, trust focused and relational approach to the care and support of older people. Scottish Care saw the initial development of the National Procurement Framework as offering the potential of reducing complexity, fostering relationships and addressing some of the sustainability issues. For these reasons we engaged as fully as we could but are now in a position of being disillusioned with the overall process and result. Scottish Care (and CCPS) was invited to contribute to the development of the Framework as led by Scotland Excel, but not privy to the final set of documents. Having read the documentation on its publication, it is clear there remains concern and a lack of clarity regarding the impact, scope and purpose of the Framework. Upon access to the paperwork posted on Public Contracts Scotland, the Scottish Care, Care at Home and Housing Support Committee met to discuss the impact of the process and devise a response. It was agreed that Scottish Care write directly to each local commissioner to establish their intentions around the NPF, asking the following questions:
- Will your Local Area be opting to use the Framework either now, or at any time in the future?
- If a Provider is not on the National Framework, will they be able to enter into local contracts?
- Does your local area intend to invite regional or joint tenders and if yes, with whom?
In the last week, Scottish Care has been gathering these (11 out of 30) responses. These have been paraphrased to be collated into a table (this is available under ‘Useful Downloads’ in the Members Area of the website). Most responded to say that they would consider the NPF as part of any commissioning review, but that they would not be using it in the first instance, or in exclusivity. Overall, the low uptake questions the relevance of the Framework other than risking the overall sustainability of the sector. Scottish Care proceeded to collate responses and wrote to Scottish Government on 29th October requesting an urgent meeting due to the limited timescales because of the bid process. We requested the meeting because it is important that Scottish Government are aware of the risks associated with the Framework and overall experience, and to ask where it fits into the wider work being undertaken by the Reform process on commissioning. In addition, I outlined further concerns below:
- As it stands, the Framework is not proportionate. In requiring only the accountability of providers, it leads merely to a duplication of regulation. An action in opposition of the trust-based relationships being nurtured and in community-based planning.
- There remains a need for local negotiation making it 1. less of a National Framework and more of an exercise in gathering data 2. a duplication of local processes both written and in person (the Framework requires an annual meeting with providers).
- The National approach risks favouring larger organisations potentially giving them an advantage. One area in particular responded to say that they will not be adopting the National Framework specifically for this reason. The majority of our members who come under the remit of the Framework are small local organisations, some of whom are employee-owned.
- Only those registered with the Care Inspectorate can apply therefore it precludes new providers from entering the market by creating a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario. Again, this will be more acute for smaller start-up providers.
- Lastly, it is difficult to see how the Self Directed Support Act’s duties to foster market diversity and innovation are going to be achieved by a Framework which limits the potential of innovation.
In the context of a duty to ensure best value for the citizens of Scotland, Scottish Care and its members are left questioning the overall benefit of the exercise when comparing its uncertain impact against the resource required both to implement and maintain any such Framework. The Framework has added to the instability of the market by causing uncertainty for providers in its relevance or impact for them within their own local context. This of course has the ultimate risk of directly affecting those who access care and support. I am disappointed to say that to date, I have received no response to my letter to Scottish Government but find myself in a position of needing to update members as a matter of urgency because of the timescales for the bid. I hope that the intelligence attached may assist you in making your decision about engaging in the NPF. For those areas that we did not receive a response, it would be helpful to hear of any local intelligence which could be shared via our Branch Chairs and urge you to make contact as soon as possible. Kind Regards, Karen Hedge National Director, Scottish Care