The City of Cardiff is the leading commercial centre of Wales and the country’s most popular visitor destination. It is also the headquarters for most national cultural and sporting institutions, and the seat of the National Assembly for Wales.
The City of Cardiff Council provides services for a population of around 350,000. The authority is, in particular, focused on: economic development; education and skills; and supporting vulnerable people in times of austerity. The Council acknowledges the realities of significantly reduced budgets and understands the need for adopting new methods of delivering services to meet this challenge.
The Council wanted to transform the way it secured Residential and Nursing Care placements for older people, including those with mental health problems. Greater control and visibility was needed to address the £18 million spent annually on these key services.
Managers recognised the current process needed to be faster and more efficient, to save valuable time for under-pressure Case Managers and Social Workers. Case Managers had to spend several hours phoning around accredited providers which could take up to ten calls trying to find suitable available care, negotiate fees and often being unsure over what presented ‘best value’.
More importantly, there was a requirement to provide service users and their families with greater choice over their care placements. Case Managers could show the choices available in a clear and timely way.
The Council identified that significant savings and service improvements were possible by embracing new technology to source Residential and Nursing Care placements. Managers also wanted to increase transparency and fairness within the marketplace, encouraging care homes and service providers to work more closely with the Council. The new solution would minimise delays over placements and increase certainty for everyone.
However, the Council fully recognised the challenges involved. Health and Social Care provision was entirely different to sourcing everyday goods and services. A deep understanding and expertise was required to find a solution that reflected sensitivity, complexity and personal choice. Ultimately, the Council wanted to rank providers according to price but allow service users and their families to then make decisions according to choice.
Having carefully considered present and future needs and requirements, the Council assessed technology providers and chose PROACTIS as its primary sourcing and contracting solution. PROACTIS Source-to-Contract solutions include Supplier Management, eSourcing and Contract Management capabilities. These would enable the Council to get the most from its Residential and Nursing buying power; gain best value agreements, strengthen control and visibility over spending, improve the transparency of the process and provide increased customer choice. Cardiff could standardise, streamline, and track the entire process.
A Project Team was established comprising staff from two Council Directorates who specialised in Procurement and Health & Social Care. Strong synergies and a good working relationship already existed. This gave the project a huge impetus from the outset, as well as ensuring there was real buy-in and ownership of the change process.
The project began with a gap analysis which showed that existing processes for securing care placements were outdated and only offered limited choice to service users. Council staff needed the tools and clear information to make good decisions quickly.
Council teams worked closely with PROACTIS to tailor its solution to meet the precise needs of staff, service users and providers. Details were fine tuned, from how to specify requirements, to publishing electronic documents, scoring responses, and awarding contracts. Although the new system would be intuitive for users, the Council invited Residential and Nursing care providers to register for a number of ‘Meet the Buyer’ events. At these, the proposed changes were explained. Support and detailed guidance was provided to enable providers to register on PROACTIS and to be able to tender for opportunities. Telephone and email support remained in place after these events.
The solution set out to utilise the functionality within PROACTIS to securely advertise placements to approved providers who were registered on a Dynamic Approved Provider List (DAPL) within PROACTIS. Providers were given 48 hours to respond to the opportunity and provide a price per week for the placement based upon the needs of the service user. Within three months, over 100 care providers were registered on the DAPL and over 170 opportunities were advertised.
Following the 48-hour period, all bids received are provided to the case manager who then liaises with the service user and/or family to choose a suitable home. The final part of the process includes issuing the contract to the chosen care provider while notifying interested providers of the outcome via the PROACTIS tool.
PROACTIS records all activity performed within the system and the process is fully auditable, allowing for issues or challenges to be dealt with in a timely fashion. It is a testament to the team approach, strength of the change process and the capabilities of PROACTIS that the new Health and Social Care sourcing solution went ‘live’ within just three months.
The results have demonstrated that it is possible for local authorities to use technology and expertise to transform sensitive and complex services, such as Health and Social Care provision - and to do it quickly.
After five months, the Council is on course to achieve £383,500 per year of annualised savings through the new process for sourcing and awarding of contracts for Residential and Nursing care, supported by the process automation made possible by PROACTIS.
In the first five months, the solution had issued over 300 opportunities to Residential and Nursing providers registered on the DAPL. Providers engaged fully and responded with prices that represented exceptional value. This demonstrated their confidence in a fair and transparent system that also worked for them in providing certainty that beds and services would be taken up.
“Our focus is delivering measurable benefits of procurement technology in Health and Social Care but without discounting the intrinsic value that innovative systems provide,” said Steve Robinson, Head of Commissioning and Procurement at the City of Cardiff Council.
The Council can look forward to sustainable savings, thanks to dynamic sourcing solutions that can adjust easily with bespoke service requirements and an ever-updating list of capable providers. The Council is now talking with PROACTIS about other ways it introduces innovation and makes savings, while improving quality.