Headlines: February 23rd, 1998

The Department for Social Security has awarded three contracts for the Benefits Agency Medical Service to the Sema Group. The contracts, which are valued at £305m, will run for 5 years with a 2 year extension clause.The BAMS provides medical advice to the Agency and arranges examinations of claimants for incapacity and disability benefits. The current Civil Service complement includes some 220 doctors and 1,200 administrative staff. The majority of medical examinations are carried out by a pool of over 3,000 non-Civil Service doctors who are contracted to supply their services on a sessional basis. The work of the non Civil service doctors is outside the scope of the contract.

Over 60% of the Civil Service administrative staff opted to transfer to the Sema Group and the remainder are being offered re-deployment. Doctors who decline to transfer to the contractor will not be offered re-deployment because the DSS has no other medical posts.

The principal criteria for evaluating the bids for the contracts were quality and staff transfer arrangements. Tenders falling below the minimum quality level were eliminated from the evaluations process, regardless of the low price offered. In assessing proposed staff transfer arrangements, the past records of companies were examined.

The DSS expects that the Sema Group will be able to deliver service improvements including speedier appointments and shorter waiting times. It is claimed that this will be done largely through management expertise and investment in new technology.