Winning orthodontic and dental services tenders can feel like pulling teeth.
Valued at over £7.1 billion, the UK dental industry is a lucrative sector for healthcare suppliers to bid and expand services provision. Having mandatory competitive pricing regulated by the British Dental Association’s Units of Dental Activity (UDA), we recognise how difficult it can be to put together winning bids, especially for SMEs. At Thornton and Lowe, we champion SMEs and have compiled this guide, full of expert advice, to help SMEs such as yours write winning dental bids.
What are Dental Service tenders?
Dental contracts fall into 4 broad categories:
General Dental Services (GDS) contracts
- GDS cover health-related dental works that are not required for cosmetic purposes. Examples include:
- Tooth cleaning
- Tooth extraction
- Wisdom tooth extraction
- Children’s Dentistry
These are procedures that are necessary for the patient’s health and meet the reasonable needs of the patient. These are services that are bought by the NHS for public use.
Personal Dental Services (PDS) contracts: These are specialist services including:
- Urgent treatment
- Advanced mandatory services
- PDS contracts typically last 5 years and are open for renewal.
Trust-based contracts: Typically bought for use in emergency dental practices, trust-based dental services are paid for by the Commissioner, rather than by the NHS, and are a needs-based supplement to the GDS procured by the NHS.
PDS Plus: A more recent type of contract targeted at increasing patient engagement with NHS dentistry, these contracts are created with clearer emphasis on improving:
- Service access
- Service quality
PDS Plus contracts are measured and payment is issued against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure sufficient levels of service are met by suppliers. The standard KPIs fall under the headings of:
- Effective Care
- Health Promotion
- Patient Experience
Where suppliers fail to meet agreed levels of service delivery, PDS Plus allows the buyer to terminate the agreement and retender the contract.
Most orthodontic tender opportunities are available through Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS). This is an electronic ‘open market’ that gives suppliers the opportunity to join more frequently than traditional methods of procurement. This means that SMEs like yours have more opportunities to expand their network at times that are convenient for you.
DPS are more similar to Frameworks (discussed below) than traditional procurement but provide you with more power and better chances of an award due to there being no limit on listed suppliers.
When bidding for orthodontic tenders, showing best practice/legislative practice is key. The awarding panel will want to see evidence of how these play a role in your service delivery, using past contract examples as proof.
Key professional associations to draw orthodontic best practice guidance include:
- British Dental Association
- CODE -the Professional Association for Dental Practice
- British Association of Dental Nurses
- Dental Laboratories Association
- Dental Technologists Association
- Orthodontic National Group
- Clinical Dental Technicians Association
- British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy
- British Association of Dental Therapists
More recommendations are listed here.
Where can I find orthodontic tender opportunities?
Free tools such as Tender Pipeline make finding orthodontic tenders a pain-free experience. Saving you time by presenting public and private opportunities on one database, our easy-to-use tool is simple to navigate and will boost your tender searching performance.
Removing the stress and giving you more time to focus on your work, speak with a member of our team today to find out about our Search and Selection service. A dedicated member of our team will manually find you the most relevant orthodontic/dental services opportunities as they are announced, without you lifting a finger.
Updated daily as opportunities are announced, current examples of opportunities listed on Tender Pipeline include:
NHSE889 Specialist Led Primary Orthodontic Services
Dynamic Purchasing System for the Provision of Orthodontic Services
Specialist Secondary Care Dental Services
Direct award vs Framework award
Tendering opportunities can take the form of direct awards or frameworks. Direct awards are where the supplier bids for a contract and the buyer chooses who to award to. Typically, unless divided into lots, these opportunities are awarded to 1 supplier and only re-open to tender after the contracted period has lapsed. This means that, whilst the award may be greater, competition can be fiercer and unsuccessful suppliers may have to wait up to 5 years, or as specified per opportunity before they can re-bid.
Frameworks are where the supplier bids for a place on a list of approved suppliers, that framework buyers have to choose from. Framework award doesn’t guarantee contract award, but framework tenders usually have more than 1 awarded supplier and can be a great way to build your brand awareness with the right kinds of buyers. A direct award can be given to framework suppliers, or framework buyers can request suppliers to tender for their contracts.
Where can I find Dental Service Frameworks?
Dental-specific Frameworks benefit suppliers by awarding successful companies placement on a list of approved suppliers. This means that any contracts advertised through the framework will be awarded to at least one of the suppliers on the list. Suppliers are vetted through a tendering process, and placements are typically awarded to the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) (keep on reading for more MEAT guidance).
Below are 3 examples of Dental Services Frameworks:
NHS Dental Technologies, Implants and Related Consumables and Services
Reference: 2019/S 183-445143
Renewal date: 05/01/2024
Up to £60 million
Offering opportunities for a direct award, this framework covers multiple dental disciplines, including:
Split into 9 lots, this framework lists 29 suppliers who can be chosen to supply the following works:
Crown Commercial Service Workforce Alliance: Provision of Clinical and Healthcare Staffing
Renewal date: 12/10/2023
Listing 395 suppliers over 6 lots, this framework provides contract opportunities for the employment of:
Lot 2, Medical and Dentistry staffing lists 109 suppliers and allows provisional extensions of the contracted service of up to 24 months.
NHS Provision of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Imaging and Radiotherapy Equipment, Associated Products and Diagnostic Imaging
Renewal date: 13/09/2023 with an optional extension until 13/09/2025
Up to £360 million
Split into 18 lots, this framework provides medical imaging equipment.
Lot 16 specialises in dental imaging and lists 5 suppliers for buyers to choose from.
Why should I bid for public-sector dental contracts?
Offering additional payment protection through highly regulated public procurement procedures, winning public sector contracts can afford your SME guaranteed income for the duration of the contract. This is a more secure guarantee than private sector contracts, where there is the constant possibility of the buyer’s company dissolving/breaking contract terms resulting in an unexpected loss of income and work.
Payment assurance is further protected for public contracts as buyers are bound to the Prompt Payment Policy. This ensures that suppliers pay at least 90% of invoices to SMES within 5 days, and 100% within 30 days.
Across the UK, an average of only 10.95% of adults prefer private dentistry. Of these private sector contracts, buyers have the freedom to buy directly from suppliers known to them, or to only inform select suppliers of tender opportunities. This means that if you aren’t in with the right crowd at the right time, you’re in danger of missing out.
Offering increased payment security and a larger volume of services/goods to sell, public sector dental contracts are pitched to the public, in line with the Government’s target to procure 30% of its goods/services from SMEs. This means that if you use the right tools to keep an eye on upcoming opportunities, such as our free-to-use Tender Pipeline, you’ll always be in the right place at the right time.
Are Dental Service contracts right for my SME?
A top tip for companies looking to bid for dental contracts is to make sure that your
service meets the requirements of the specification. We know how exciting it can be to find the perfect opportunity, or how eager you may be to start winning public sector contracts. But, it’s important to remember that a considered and targeted approach will always score more highly than repurposed and generic response.
Tender suitability will always vary between opportunities, but as a general rule of thumb, and to prevent wasting precious company time first consider whether your current service offerings align with the specified requirements. This may include evaluating your service offering, whether the length of the contract/framework aligns with your business plan, and whether you have the capacity to fulfil contract requirements.
Bid writing tips for Dental Services tenders
Writing winning Dental Services bids since 2009, our bid writing experts have compiled 5 common requirements for Dental Services tenders.
- Qualifications: Public procurement is tightly regulated to ensure that awarded suppliers provide the highest quality works/services to taxpayers. Contracts are typically awarded in consideration of the ‘MEAT’, meaning that the supplier who can prove that they are the best value for money tends to win the contract. Because of this, there will be minimum qualification standards (that vary between specifications) that your staff/your SME will be required to achieve prior to contracting start if awarded. To give yourself the best chance of an award, ensure that you are up-to-date with Commissioner best practice/legislation and, where necessary, ensure that you would have enough time between contract award and contract start to complete the required training.
- Location/social value: Providing public healthcare, your location and ability to serve members of the contract community may prove vital to contract award. You may find that contracts are split into ‘lots’ (more information on frameworks can be found here which are split into geographical regions. Familiarising yourself with the needs of the region(s) to which you can provide dental services, and providing evidencing this within your responses, for example through local statistics, council concerns or solutions to local health-related issues can add value to your bid. You can do this by showing local knowledge, the ability to deliver care in the specified region(s) and committing to local charity initiatives/sustainability pledges of local concern/ regional economic growth. A key thing to remember is that public procurement spends public money, so make sure that your bid reflects the wider positive impact of your services on the public. For more information on social value, check out our blog on the importance of social value.
- Patient-focused care: Demonstrate the quality of your service provision through case studies of similar contracts and testimonials from previous clients/patients. Use your bid as an opportunity to show the awarding panel how your service can make a difference to the patients you serve, and back your claims up with data/facts. It is important to remember to have the sources for your data/facts saved and to hand, in case you are asked to provide further evidence.
- Clinical governance: Linking to the first tip on qualifications, a common dental tender requirement is that suppliers are Care Quality Commission registered. You can evidence your compliance with governing bodies by informing your policies on best practice/legislation, highlighting your ISO and other related accreditations, and proving you have the correct clinical audit procedures in place.
- British Dental Association (BDA) Units of Dental Activity (UDA): Make your bid stand out from your competition as the MEAT by using BDA’s UDA value checker to compare your pricing against local and national competition. Pricing and quality are the bread and butter of contract awards, so check out how your service delivery compares before writing your bid.
Where can I find Dental Service tenders?
All public sector tenders are initially posted on the UK Government’s Contracts Finder and Find a Tender databases. These databases are home to vast numbers of upcoming and live contracts for all sectors. The volume of information on these frameworks can be overwhelming, which is why we recommend using free services such as Tender Pipeline for free contract alerts and business intelligence, giving you the earliest notice of relevant contract opportunities.
Doing the hard work for you and providing you with a team member dedicated to sourcing and providing you with tender opportunities as they are announced, get in touch with our team today to find out how we can boost your business to tendering success.
How Thornton and Lowe can help you win Dental Services contracts
For further help with writing a winning Dental Services bid, get in touch! We know that our clients have what it takes to win, and we champion the SMEs that make it happen. With a success rate of 75% and 90% client retention, get in touch and let us be the voice that wins these for you today.
Take a look at the other blogs in our Ultimate Guides series here:
Ultimate Guide to Grounds Maintenance Tenders
Ultimate Guide to Catering Tenders
Ultimate Guide to Professional Services Tenders
Ultimate Guide to Health & Social Care Tenders