Department of Health slammed for abandoning PropCo tender

Lawyers responding to a Department of Health tender have hit out at the government department after it ditched the process due to underestimating how much the work would cost.


In May the Department of Health issued an invitation to tender to establish a national property company to take over the billions of pounds worth of property managed by its soon-to-be-defunct primary care trusts.

Firms were given until 18 May to complete the tender, but when bids started coming in the Department of Health discovered that the quotes were higher than expected – as much as 10 times higher, according to one source – and so cancelled the bid, angering the lawyers who had spend time preparing a pitch.

One law firm employee involved in the bid described how their firm had two partners working on the tender for four or five days, with a number of support staff also working on it.

“It’s just incompetence,” said one law firm partner involved in the tender process. “The Department of Health issued a tender that didn’t understand the work that it was asking for, and when the bids came back they found that the firms were asking for too much money. They put a lot of firms through a lot of work, but if they’d just done some soft marketing and looked at the costs first, this could have all been avoided.”

Not all of those invovled were angered by the mistake, however.

“We’re aware that a lot of the lawyers involved in the tender are upset,” said an employee at another firm. “But there’s no point getting annoyed because things like this happen. It’s not the first mistake of its kind.”

Firms are now waiting for the new invitation to tender, which is expected later this month, with most of those involved in the original tender expected to re-pitch for the work.

Bevan Brittan, Capsticks, DAC Beachcroft, Eversheds, Mills & Reeve and Wragge & Co are all understood to have pitched in the original tender, but none of these firms would comment.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We’re currently refining our specification for the legal services required by NHS Property Services and will tender again later this month,via the Government Procurement Service’s ‘Legal Services’ framework agreement. A revised invitation to tender will be issued to framework suppliers in due course.”