Health watchdog: G-Cloud was our Plan B, but it beat Plan A

Health watchdog: G-Cloud was our Plan B, but it beat Plan A

CQC was on the hunt for an open source CMS tool, and found success with Ixis Drupal

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC), an organisation that regulates over 40,000 health organisation in the UK, has revealed that prior to selecting an open source CMS tool via the government’s G-Cloud framework, it had also been running a traditional commercial tender process to find a vendor as its Plan A.

It was revealed last month that CQC opted to use Ixis to host and support it's Drupal site, which it procured via the government’s cloud initiative. The G-Cloud has been open for business for almost a year and allows the public sector to procure cloud products from a pre-approved list of vendors that are signed to the framework via an online portal, dubbed Cloudstore.


The G-Cloud team recently launched the third round of procurement for suppliers to sign up to the initiative, and so far has received over £4 million of public sector spend. However, there are still a number of concerns for the initiative’s success, including problems with security assurance, not having cloud incumbents Google or Amazon signed up to the agreement, and departments battling to persuade procurement to abandon their traditional approaches.

However, the CQC was one of the first organisations to buy through the framework and is now a keen advocate of its benefits.

Computerworld UK spoke to Henry Cook, programme director for business improvement and head of digital communications at CQC, who explained that even though he was keen to use Cloudstore, he wasn’t 100 percent confident of its capabilities initially.

“We procured through the first G-Cloud framework and it was a little bit in flux. Our procurement department wasn’t used to dealing with something like this, and so it was a bit touch and go if we were going to proceed through the process,” said Cook.

“We actually ran a dual process - we did our detailed requirements for a full commercial tender, which was our Plan A. However, once we were confident that we could get what we wanted through the G-Cloud, we abandoned this route.”

CQC was looking for a new open-source CMS, as its previous tool was part of a shared services agreement across a number of government departments, called ‘The Club’. However, with the abandonment of DirectGov, the main customer of ‘The Club’, every member had to find and procure their own CMS by March this year and migrate away from the previous service, which was also a Drupal product provided by Steria.

“We were happy with Drupal, its open source, it’s easy to add modules on and it fits with the government’s ICT strategy. We knew about a year ago ‘The Club’ agreement would come to an end, which fitted in nicely with the rise of the G-Cloud,” said Cook.
“We were actually waiting rather impatiently for the G-Cloud to launch.”

Cook explained that the hardest part of making G-Cloud work in the public sector is convincing departments to change their traditional approach of working with large IT suppliers.

“Yes, we definitely had a political backlash – principally from procurement. Traditionally procurement aren’t interested in my requirements, they are more interested in making sure the process is open and fair. They manage that. However, now they are dealing with a middle man (the G-Cloud team) and it’s a very different way of working,” he said.

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