Creating winning bids in the dental arena
As a dentist, endodontist, orthodontist or other specialist dental services provider, a key part of your business growth strategy could be to win an NHS dental tender, for a new specialist service, or re-tender for an existing NHS contract that you already hold. Most NHS dental contracts are time-limited, so just because you hold one now, doesn’t automatically mean it will be re-awarded to you. Additionally, you may find that when a dental service is re-tendered, the locations and lot sizes have been reassessed, relocated and resized due to changing NHS patient needs. Existing PDS contract holders will need to submit a dental tender in the same way as potential new providers and will be assessed in exactly the same way.
NHS dental tenders are focussed on bringing equity, accessibility, value and excellence to the provision of dental care and treatment with improved patient outcomes. Understanding the commissioners’ motivations are key, so your dental tender response will need to demonstrate that your practice delivers outstanding quality of care and cost-effectiveness with the needs of all patients at the heart of what you do. In this way, smaller dental practices can show that they are not just as good, but even better than the large dental corporations out there. This blog outlines some key ways to achieve success and beat the competition to winning a dental tender.
Firstly, quality of service. You are going to need to describe and, importantly, evidence the following:
- How you adhere to regulatory standards (GDC, BOS, IRMER etc)
- What clinical audits you perform, and the audit process undertaken (e.g. plan, audit, action plan, re-audit). Show that your process is more efficient and effective than a large corporation that may have layers or bureaucracy to overcome before things get changed
- The structure of your organisation with clearly defined roles & responsibilities (e.g. Caldicott Guardian, Clinical Governance Lead, Data Protection Officer, Compliance Manager, SIRO, Safeguarding Lead, Radiation Protection Officer etc)
- What safeguarding procedures you have in place and the safeguarding training undertaken by your staff. Show this from your receptionist to your principal practitioner
- Your approach to Health and Safety; it’s not enough to simply say you have a H&S policy – how often is it reviewed, how are staff trained on H&S, do you undertake H&S audits etc
- That your patient complaints procedures are advertised, followed and result in process improvements and better patient care. Again, differentiate from your bigger rivals by showing how effective your feedback and lessons learnt processes are.
- That you have strong incident reporting procedures in place, and staff adhere to Duty of Candour
The highest scoring tender responses will demonstrate extremely robust clinical governance policies and procedures, along with an appropriate quality assurance and governance mechanism, such as the BDA Good Practice Scheme, with clear accountability throughout the organisation. At every appropriate opportunity, provide the evidence that the NHS commissioners are looking for to demonstrate your performance; this may include practice vital sign information, NHS BSA Compass-e-portal evidence, NHS Dental Reference Service Reports, PAR scores, FFT results, PROMS/PREMS, IMOS/Endodontic/Orthodontic Transition Score, Dental Assurance Framework, NHS choices, referral to assessment waiting and assessment to treatment waiting times, CQC reports.
Secondly, ensuring the needs of patients, accessibility and equity of care are at the heart of your service delivery. You will need to think about, describe, and evidence:
- How your proposed surgery location and layout comply with relevant legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act (e.g. hearing loop, wheelchair access, proximity of public transport, parking)
- How you meet and exceed patient expectations (provision of information, ensuring understanding of treatment plan, oral health care advice etc)
- How you prioritise patients and manage waiting lists, including transferred patients
- How you manage referrals
- How you meet the needs of vulnerable and hard to reach groups
- How you engage with the local community (e.g. school visits to reduce incidences of poor oral health)
- How you have used the feedback mechanisms you have in place (e.g. satisfaction surveys, social media) to implement patient feedback
- How the technology you use in your practice helps you meet the needs of patients.
The best responses will demonstrate that you have an in depth understanding of the local population and its associated challenges/issues, and that your surgery is the best equipped to deal with them. This is critical to differentiating yourself from a competitor that might not have any understanding at this level. Include evidence of discussions with NHS Area Teams, MCN meetings, Healthwatch, and if possible, your previous experience of e.g. waiting times, to show your knowledge and why your practice is ideally placed to deliver the new contract.
Thirdly, resourcing. You can’t provide outstanding quality of service and meet the needs of patients without the correct staff in place from day one. You will need to:
- Provide a detailed mobilisation plan showing that all potential risks from lack of resources have been mitigated. Even if some things are already in place, include these as ‘completed items’ to show you’ve considered them
- Ensure your proposed staffing structure meets the required qualifications, skill-mix, experience and service delivery requirements. Show why your clinical team are more qualified than anyone else. Show why your non-clinical team are more qualified than anyone else
- Provide a clear organisational plan with defined roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability. Don’t make 1 person accountable or responsible for everything as this implies a work-overload and potential to drop the ball
- Use evidence and statistics to back up your statements on staff quality e.g. PAR scores, patient feedback letters
- Evidence how you follow NHS safer recruitment guidelines when recruiting
- Describe your staff training program and how you ensure compliance with GDC CPD requirements. Do you use a matrix to flag when training is out of date?
- Detail your process for managing staff conduct and performance
- Provide assurances that you can retain compliant, qualified, high-performing staff.
The best responses will demonstrate that you have thought about all elements of a thorough mobilisation (e.g. patient data transfer, surgery fit-out, TUPE of existing staff and the costs) and that your staff are in place, competent and compliant with strong supporting HR policies.
Lastly, finance. Your tender proposal needs to be financially viable, deliver long-term value for money and be aligned with the resourcing structure you outline as the tender evaluators will cross reference it. Your dental tender financial model needs to include:
- Full costings for all the staff you outline in your tender responses
- Full costings for equipment (e.g. if you refer to using a new digital dental scanner this needs to be in the set-up costs)
- The cost of any fit-out required
- Proof of funds for any up-front costs
- Show a positive cash-flow throughout to evidence a stable business model.
The pricing element of a dental tender is typically limited to committing to pricing per unit of activity (UDA/UOA) within a pre-determined band. Consequently, there is limited room to differentiate your practice from much of the competition and highlights the importance of doing this as much as possible in the written element of the tender. As charges and therefore revenues generated from dental activity is largely fixed and the same for all bidders, the onus on preparing a strong pricing tender/financial model template (FMT) becomes the viability of your service delivery. The more comprehensive and inclusive your FMT is, the less room for doubt you give to the tender evaluation panel. Not only that, but you may be able to point out costs to the commissioners that other bidders haven’t even thought of, and thereby show that their FMT’s are incomplete or unviable.
In addition to the above, and this may seem obvious, always remember to answer the specific question that is being asked. Responses will have limited word or character counts, so there won’t be room for additional information that you want to provide but haven’t been asked for (and it won’t be scored).