The government has launched a new national framework procurement, called Express LIFT, designed to extend access to the existing LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust) scheme.
Currently, about half of PCTs in England use LIFT – a partnership scheme between PCTs, local authorities and the private sector – to build and finance new, modern GP surgeries, health centres and walk-in centres.
The Department of Health (DH) says that Express LIFT will generate a list of approved private sector partners with a past record of delivering services required by the LIFT scheme.
This includes providing strategic advice, design skills, management of a supply chain and an ability to obtain funding, while providing good value for money for the taxpayer.
PCTs and local authorities will be able to select organisations from the framework to act as partners in their local LIFT schemes.
The framework is designed to accelerate the procurement process for infrastructure projects and reduce costs to bidders compared to the current process, as well as cutting the length of time for completion on bids. Local procurements from the Express Lift framework should be completed within about four to six weeks rather than two years, as is currently the case.
It is expected that PCTs will be able to use the new scheme from January 2009.
Mark Britnell, Director General, Commissioning and System Management at the DH, said: “LIFT has proved highly successful, allowing trusts to upgrade inadequate or ageing facilities around the country and address the historic legacy of underinvestment in NHS primary care facilities.
"Allowing the LIFT scheme to rapidly expand will enable more PCTs and local authorities to take advantage of its benefits – faster builds, improved working conditions for staff, better care environments for patients, and better overall facilities available for the local community.
"Only the best companies will make it onto the framework list. We know that private sector developers will welcome this development, both because of the potential future work and the quicker and cheaper procurement process."