The merits of direct award and mini competition

When procuring workforce solutions, at NHS Workforce Alliance we appreciate that finding the right people for the right jobs at the right time, whilst getting the best value for money for the NHS, can be … challenging.  The Alliance is part of the NHS family and our purpose is to assist trusts in meeting these fundamental objectives.

From our comprehensive suite of frameworks to our team’s wealth of expertise, providing you with any support you might need for your procurement, we are here to help, each step of the way.

We realise it can be difficult sometimes to decide which procurement route to pick – direct award or mini competition? To help you weigh up the possibilities, we’ve put together a shortlist of merits for both methods:

Direct award

·       can be faster – due to selecting a supplier without an additional process


·       it may not always give the best commercial outcome – due to the lack of a further competitive stage

·       it may not always give as much assurance of the supplier’s ability to meet your needs – due to the absence of a bespoke specification.

We recommend this approach for hiring single or small groups of workers. Choose direct award if it is clear from the contract documents there is one supplier who can meet your needs and provide you with the best value for money.  Do make sure your requirements are fully covered by the scope of the framework specification though.

Mini competition

·       can often be better at getting value for money

·       you’re able to clearly set out your specification and terms to meet your exact needs


·       it can take longer – due to the additional competitive process

·       suppliers may choose to not take part in mini competitions for smaller requirements because of the resources involved in preparing a response.

A mini competition allows you to make adjustments to the specification or terms. It may also achieve better value for money through running a further competition.  We do not recommend this approach for single or small groups of workers.

We feel mini competition is a better route for output-based delivery requirements. For example, a mini competition could be used to specify required fill rates or the percentage of direct engagement of candidates a supplier is tasked to achieve, setting out actual spend and volumes, thus enabling suppliers to submit a proposal outlining how they would expect to achieve these outcomes.

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