Navigating the cloud market within the NHS

With a brand new framework now in place to help public sector organisations purchase cloud solutions, Phil Davies, Procurement Director at NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), explains how it simplifies the procurement process and provides very best value for money

The ever-increasing popularity of cloud computing across the public sector in recent years has provided a great opportunity, one that has helped improve the lives of those working to deliver our public services, whilst benefiting the general public who access them day-to-day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rapid growth of the sector – and the growing demand from NHS organisations and other public bodies for cloud technologies – has led to a somewhat crowded and complex market. A space where it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by the huge breadth of products and services on offer from a seemingly endless pool of suppliers.

And this chimes exactly with the feedback we receive at NHS SBS. Buyers from across the NHS and wider public sector have described the process of navigating the cloud market as unmanageable and daunting.

We therefore set about developing a new Cloud Solutions Framework, which involved a rigorous tender process to ensure legally-compliant access to the very best cloud services at the most competitive price. Like all our frameworks, access is free of charge to public sector bodies and the agreement is awarded under NHS terms and conditions, offering maximum leverage for the entire public sector.

Crucially, we deliberately limited the number of suppliers on the framework to the 10 or 20 most outstanding across four separate lots. The result is a specialist pool of 24 leading suppliers, which provide the greatest expertise and best value-for-money to the NHS or any other public sector organisation.

The framework is also structured in a way that includes a full range of cloud support services, which means that regardless of where a public body is on its journey into the cloud – or how straightforward or complex its requirements – purchasing the right support is simple, quick, cost-effective and OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) compliant.

Four different lots cover a wide range of cloud services and include both bespoke and off-the-shelf solutions. The provision of tailored support – unique to this framework – is particularly appealing, enabling a level of flexibility that is often critical to success in the public sector.

Lot 1, ‘Solution Design and Consultancy’, focuses on the initial support that is needed ahead of cloud implementation. This would include things like an analysis of an organisation’s ‘as is’ position, cloud readiness assessments, architecture design and migration planning. It is particularly useful for any organisation considering migration from outdated legacy infrastructure to public or private cloud.

Lot 2, ‘Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS)’ – in other words, services to design, build, secure and operate cloud hosting environments. This includes public cloud and/or private (and hybrid) cloud hosting, processing, storage, networks and applications running on cloud infrastructure. It covers access to implementation support and end-to-end security management. And it includes a wide range of advanced services, such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain and Big Data.

Lot 3, ‘Cloud Support Services’, includes real time support, access to professional expertise, and a range of ongoing or ad-hoc specialist support services. This includes everything from on-site management, to light touch remote support, which enables the retention of in-house management.

Finally, Lot 4, ‘End-to-end Cloud Solutions’, helps match a public sector organisation with a trusted partner – a service provider that can offer complete start-to-finish support for its cloud journey.
The framework itself runs until September 2021 (with an option to extend for a further two years) and enables public sector users to make direct awards or run mini competitions – which provides further scope to drive down price – to best suit their individual needs.

And, to reflect the fast-evolving nature of the sector, the agreement also encourages suppliers to bring forward innovative new products and solutions throughout the life of the framework, which would further benefit the NHS and wider public sector.

To help launch the framework and enable knowledge sharing across the public sector, we recently held an event alongside Public Sector Connect. Over 80 delegates from across the NHS and public sector heard from organisations like NHS Digital about how it has navigated its journey to the cloud.
Those attending Cloud Solutions 2020 represented central government departments and some of the country’s largest NHS trusts, local authorities, educational establishments and police forces – highlighting the appetite that exists for the government’s long-standing Cloud First policy.

The aim of the new Cloud Solutions Framework is to provide them with a quick and easy way to procure the best quality cloud services at the best possible price – helping them to invest in new and exciting technologies, which transform the way they work and enhance the services they deliver to future generations.

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