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Commissioning Series: #9 Why procurement assessment is flawed

Writing a tender can be difficult. Reading one and interpreting it with fidelity is even harder. The shorter the word counts, the less opportunity you have as a commissioner to determine the subtle differences in ethos and approach that might be all the difference on the ground as alluded to in my first blog in this series ‘Limiting the Word Count’. Text based procurement portals prevent providers from communicating in a style that provides important information about brand and tone, but this will be covered in the final blog in this series.

When putting out a very specific tender, it is likely that providers say very similar things in order to conform to the service specification. So, it is in the nuance, that you are likely to find reasons to commission or not commission a provider.

Text only application?

Does the application process allow for this?

If a service says it is ‘evidence-based’ and ‘compliant with NICE’, how do you know this is true? What does ‘compliant’ mean? It could mean all sorts of things but the commissioning tools being used, rarely afford you the ability to make a distinction. Do you want a place to look for the evidence of it conforming to NICE guidance or are you trusting all providers mean the same thing when they confirm their compliance?

The term ‘evidence-based’ can also mean very different things to different people. Does the procurement system and set up allow you to delve into detail about the individual conception of each provider?

‘Behaviour change’ is also a phrase that is regularly used in tenders today. Does the procurement system allow a full description of what this means to each provider and how it is operationalised and tested?


This series of blogs is based on the experiences of many providers and commissioners with the express intention of raising some potential issues to consider when commissioning services for the public. It is not meant to be combative or critical, but is designed to offer some food for thought for innovative commissioners. If you are a commissioner and are interested in chatting about any of the themes raised, to tell me they are rubbish or talk more about how to implement some of the ideas, please do get in touch, I would love to chat stuartking@beezeebodies.co.uk.

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