The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) has launched a fresh tender exercise for legal work worth an estimated £136m a year – nearly £550m over the full term of the contract.
Following the tenders, the NHSLA said that new contracts were likely to be awarded to a maximum of 24 panel firms in May this year.
In the tender document, the NHSLA explained that work would be divided into “three distinct lots” – clinical liabilities, non-clinical liabilities, and regulatory, health and disciplinary law.
It estimated annual expenditure, exclusive of VAT, at around £120m for the first lot, £8m for the second and £8m for the third.
However, the authority warned that expenditure “may vary significantly from year to year” and offered “no guarantee” as to the value of work awarded.
The NHSLA estimated that, as a result of the tenders, contracts or “framework agreements” would be awarded to “roughly” 10 firms for the first lot, four for the second and 10 for the third.
It added that the total number of firms may be less than this, as firms can tender for all three lots and may be awarded more than one contract.
A spokesman for the NHS Litigation Authority said: “Using the unique purchasing power of the NHS Litigation Authority, the tender process will ensure that the NHS receives value for money and allow us to maintain high quality legal services for our members.
“The services required are to meet with an ongoing, and often urgent, need to access law firms with specialist expertise and knowledge to provide advice and support on a wide range of health–related issues.”
The spokesman said the new legal services framework was divided into lots to reflect the fact that “law firms often specialise in particular areas” and “three distinct panels” would be created by the bidding process.
“We are encouraging submissions from all applicable organisations, which may tender for one, two or all three lots. We look forward to receiving tender applications, the quality of which will determine the number of firms representing the NHS Litigation Authority on its panel.”
The NHSLA said in the tender document that it expected to be “by far the preponderant user” of the first two panels, while the third would be used mainly by other organisations, such as the Department of Health, Care Quality Commission or Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
The contracts will run for up to four years. The deadline for receipt of tenders is 3 April, and the new agreements are intended to go live on 28 May 2017.