Key considerations for authorities procuring urgent medical supplies


The UK Cabinet Office has released extra guidance regarding public procurement during the Covid-19 crisis. The aim is to highlight certain mechanisms that are present within the public procurement framework, enabling authorities to urgently procure products and services within shorter timeframes than would normally apply. 

If you have an urgent requirement for goods, services or works due to COVID-19, and you need to procure this under the Public Contract Regulations 2015 (PCRs), there are various options available. These include:

  • direct award due to extreme urgency;

  • direct award due to absence of competition or protection of exclusive rights;

  • call off from an existing framework agreement or dynamic purchasing system;

  • call for competition using a standard procedure with accelerated timescales;

  • extending or modifying a contract during its term.

The government provides detailed explanations of these options here.

Open communication is vital

Whilst it is clear that non-standard procedures will be more readily available to contracting authorities as a result of COVID-19, this does not mean that there is free reign to ignore EU procurement regulation. Open communication between contracting authorities and suppliers remains as important as ever. In the circumstances, contracting authorities will undoubtedly use more direct awards, and suppliers must ensure they are providing accurate accounts of their capacities and offerings.

The fundamental principles of procurement still apply

Procurement regulation should not stand in the way or hinder response to the pandemic. However, the fundamental principles of public procurement still apply. These include non-discrimination, equal treatment, proportionality and transparency. Suppliers should also continue holding contracting authorities to account. All decisions on individual contracts and awards should be recorded as this could mitigate against the risk of a successful legal challenge. If you make a direct award, you should publish a contract award notice (regulation 50) within 30 days of awarding the contract.

Support suppliers with faster payments

Suppliers should be paid as quickly as possible to help maintain cash flow and protect jobs. Under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, suppliers to the public sector must be paid within 30 days, but in the current climate accelerated payment practices are required. 
Contracting authorities should now make payments as soon as they are able, prioritising high value invoices, resolving disputes and encouraging suppliers to invoice on a more regular basis. Contingency measures should also be considered during the Covid-19 outbreak, in order to ensure prompt authorisation and payment upon receipt of goods. Further details can be found in the official government documentation. 

If you have any questions regarding the regulations surrounding urgent procurement, please get in touch today.


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