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  • OGC model ICT services agreement - a sea change in NHS IT procurement

    "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail" (Abraham Maslow)

    Abraham could have been describing the use of the OGC model ICT services agreement by NHS trusts.

    Last summer, I noticed something strange happening. Without fanfare or publicity, every single NHS trust stopped using the SYSCON model contract and started using the OGC model ICT services agreement, even where they were just buying a software licence, maintenance & support and an implementation project. But of course they didn't just use the vanilla model contract like Central Government has done for the last decade, they bowdlerised it and created their own unique flavour, so that every bidder would have to do a delta view comparison with the original, and figure out what had been changed and why. And they employed consultants and lawyers to make the changes. As the contract and vanilla schedules are about 250 pages, few NHS trusts bother reading it. And woe betide suppliers who attempt to mark the contract up too rigorously - they run the risk of being excluded from the competition or losing marks during tender evaluation.

    This change has driven up bid costs, and has even led to one or two bidders withdrawing from competition. As noted previously, the OGC model contract does not provide a good fit when the NHS Trust just wants to buy a licence and host the software in its own data centre. After all, the OGC model contract was designed primarily for use by Central Government departments signing contracts for IT and Business Process outsourcing, with contract values in the range of £100 million - 1 billion. And even then, some commentators thought it was over-engineered. However, every cloud has a silver lining and NHS trusts are being forced to think about buying hosting and data centre services, for the first time ever, in the majority of cases.

    And a final word to NHS trusts who might be reading this - please stick to the vanilla OGC contract. If it was good enough for the Home Office or DWP in its vanilla form, then it's probably good enough for you. Resist the temptation to tinker (accepting of course, that schedules need to be tailored to reflect what you're buying).

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