5 February 2019

Tender for laboratory provision of English primary HPV cervical screening.

The Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath), Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), and British Association of Cytopathology (BAC) recently wrote to NHS England to seek an extension to the tender process for Primary HPV cervical screening.

Whilst all of the professional bodies support the move to Primary HPV, at this crucial stage of the bidding process, we feel that NHS England must mitigate the significant risk that bids for this service may be flawed due to insufficient time or inaccurate or insufficient data on which to base their bids. To ensure laboratory services bidding have adequate preparation time and sufficient and accurate data, the professional bodies requested an extension to the tender submission deadline which was 16 January 2019.

The letter stated:

“The programme has been aware that the tender process was imminent and the new screening workflow must be delivered by the end of 2019. The consolidation from over 40 labs to 9 will be a highly complex organisational change with significant consequences for staff, quality assurance and the clinical pathways.

Adequate time must be allowed for detailed consideration to ensure patient safety during the transfer of work. However, the issues highlighted above and the relatively short time frame (over the Christmas period) for bid submission significantly compromises the ability of the laboratory service to produce meaningful and comprehensive bids.

We therefore seek an extension to the deadline and the sharing of more details on aspects of the tender. Such an extension needs to be in the magnitude of weeks, not days, in order for this to be an informed and safely managed process.”

Our letter is available to download below.

NHS England responded with their decision to not extend the deadline for submission of tenders. They felt that delaying the submission deadline would directly affect the timetable for evaluation and would prevent them from awarding contracts at the specified date.

The letter from NHS England is available to download below.

Now that the formal procurement process is in place and currently closed, further discussions with NHS England can continue once the contracts have been awarded in April. It is the aim of these professional bodies to ensure a well-managed, safe and robust implementation process for all involved.

We will continue to work with IBMS and BAC to monitor the NHS England Primary HPV screening procurement process and raise concerns that will affect our members. We shall inform members of any further information we receive from NHS England.

We were pleased to see correspondence between NHS England and the Committee of Public Accounts on supporting primary care services and NHS England’s contract with Capita. Many of the recommendations that are actively being addressed are the areas we have been asking for such as an integrated approach and consultation with service users.