The Australian Government’s Response to the Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services (November 2015) indicated that 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) will play a key role in the reform process through the planning and commissioning of primary mental health services at a regional level. As part of this reform, the Commonwealth government has moved from program-based funding (e.g., ATAPS) to a flexible funding pool to support the commissioning of primary mental services in each PHN.
The PHNs will be determining the services required to meet their specific local needs and how these services will be delivered. In line with this, PHNs will require practices to tender for this work.
Although writing tenders has not been core business for many psychology practices and is generally something many psychologists would prefer to avoid, it is a skill that will be required if psychologists plan to work in the new PHN environment.
Information about upcoming tenders that may be offered by your local PHN can generally be found on the respective PHN website. Many of the PHNs have a tender portal that supports the downloading of tender documents and uploading of applications. In general, you will need to register to use the portal. It is also important to register to receive the PHN email newsletter.
Deciding whether to apply for a tender
Deciding whether to submit a tender requires careful consideration of a number of factors including the specific requirements of the tender, assessing this against the capacity of the practitioner or practice to deliver the services, and other factors such as the likely impact on the business of the practice (see below for a more detailed list of considerations).
Responding to the tender
Once a decision has been made to respond to a particular tender, the next step is to do some preparation, and then the job of writing the tender begins.
Prepare, prepare, prepare…
It is important to gather as much information as possible about the specific tender opportunity and the broader PHN grant program. This should include:
- Reading and understanding all of the tender documents and attending any information sessions offered by the PHN.
- Contacting the PHN directly with any queries about the tender, the PHN, or the process as part of developing a thorough understanding of the tender and the needs of the PHN.
In addition, during the preparation stage, it is timely to review and ensure that all required supporting documentation is ready for submitting with the tender. This is likely to include one or more of the following:
- A financial statement of your business/practice prepared by an accountant.
- A list of relevant referees with association to the practitioner/practice noted and contact details included.
- Copies of any documentation or policies that provides evidence of strong clinical governance.
Writing the tender
With the bulk of the preparation done, and the level of structure often provided by the PHNs for the tender, the writing phase can be less overwhelming than at first anticipated.
As a general rule, it is crucial to respond to the questions asked keeping in mind that some questions are weighted more heavily than others and should be responded to accordingly. The tender document needs to demonstrate a sound understanding of the required service and of the practice’s capacity to deliver this service. To this end, the tender should include relevant, recent evidence-based examples of delivering the services required of the tender.
As with any written document, presentation is key. Use plain language, avoid jargon and check for typographical and grammatical errors.
It can be useful to identify several unique aspects of the practice that can be emphasised in the tender document to strengthen the application.
Factors to consider in deciding whether to apply for a tender:
- Critically important is whether the practice can demonstrate relevant experience in the specific area of the tender?
- What are the mandatory requirements of the tender and can the practice meet them (e.g. a minimum coverage for professional indemnity and public liability insurance; accreditation requirements; clinical governance requirements; data entry requirements etc.)
- Is the contract the right ‘size’ for the business, and can the practice meet the terms of the contract?
- Can any risks to the business be effectively managed? For example, how will the contract requirements impact on the cashflow of the practice, additional staffing requirements etc?
- Who is the competition?
This article was drawn, in part, from a ‘how to’ of tender writing resource recently developed by the APS Professional Practice team.