BT takes Scottish NHS to court over ‘flawed’ IT contract tender process

BT has begun court proceedings against NHS Scotland after losing in its bid for a £110 million framework contract to provide the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN).


BT has begun court proceedings against NHS Scotland after losing in its bid for a £110 million framework contract to provide the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN).

The telecoms giant was bidding against Cable & Wireless with Virgin Media Business and Capita with Updata - with the latter partnership believed to be the preferred bidder chosen by procurer NHS National Services Scotland (NSS). The six-year contract would have enabled councils and NHS bodies in Scotland to share information more easily.

BT launched the actions against NHS Scotland for what it claimed had been a “flawed” tender process. It is looking for the process to be carried out again, or for £20 million in damages.

“We reject the NSS’s arguments about value for money. The reason we are going to court is that we think the tender process was flawed and did not make sure the contract was awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous bid, in accordance with the relevant regulations. As a result, we will argue that the process should be rerun,” a BT spokesperson said.

However, NSS argued that the process had been “fair, robust and thorough”.

According to NSS, the new contract provided by the preferred bidder would have saved taxpayers £300,000 a month from the start date of April 2014. Currently NHS Scotland and six councils are on the contract, which has an option for other public organisations to join later.

A spokesperson for NSS said: “By creating an IT platform that is open to all the Scottish public sector, the Scottish Wide Area Network will create savings that can be reinvested in essential public services.

"It will create common standards and easier integration between public sector bodies. The contract is worth approximately £110m initially, with the potential to rise as more public bodies make use of it.

BT said: “BT understands that progressive savings would start after services began to move over to the new SWAN network, due to begin at the end of April 2014 and ongoing for the next few years.

“However, we obviously can’t comment on what was included in the preferred bidder’s proposal as to when savings would start and what the scale of those savings would be.”

Meanwhile, Capita said: "We are aware of the legal challenge. It is a matter of public record that Capita has participated in the bid process for the provision of Scotland’s wide area network (SWAN) but, until the SWAN Board confirms its decision on the preferred bidder, it would be inappropriate for us to comment."

BT added that it was pursuing legal action “reluctantly” because it “equally shares the NSS concern on value to the public purse”.
It filed the court papers on 6 December 2013 after NSS had been selected, but not formerly announced, a preferred bidder.

NSS is attending the Court of Session in Edinburgh today to try to stop BT’s legal action.

“Until this legal action is lifted or resolved, NSS cannot award the contract to the preferred bidder. NSS has commenced the legal proceedings required to lift the current action,” a spokesperson said.

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