Direct Award

Step by step Guide: Direct Award


The terminology used below assumes that the reader has familiarised themselves with some key Digital Care Services concepts available via the following guidance / tutorials:

Step 1: Prepare

Confirm you have the right procedure

The Direct Award procedure has a value limit that you cannot exceed.  You must terminate (and re-procure the services if necessary) before you hit the limit of £40,000 (excluding VAT).  You must also be able to evaluate a Catalogue Solution using only the information that is available on the Buying Catalogue.  If you don’t have enough information to complete an evaluation, or if you can’t tell how much of any Associated Services you will need to buy to implement or operate the solution and that may impact the solution you award the contract, then you must use the Further Competition Off-Catalogue procedure.

Prepare your requirements

Identify all the Service Recipients that will be receiving services under the procurement.

Identify the Capabilities and Epics that represent your needs. Identify any Associated Services you might need, for example, training, implementation support, etc...  Be sure to consider your local environment and any special requirements, for example, local integration requirements that must be met.

Confirm the evaluation criteria

The Direct Award procedure has two options for Award Criteria:

  1. price only
  2. price and quality

The options of price only, and price and quality, are provided in the framework give flexibility. It is important that you follow your organisation’s Standing Financial Instructions (SFIs) in choosing to make a Direct Award, particularly in relation to the choice and the application of the two options.

  • Price only (with no Non-Price Elements). Where you believe Direct Award based on price only, with no quality constraints, you may choose this option.  If you are evaluating multiple Solutions, you should calculate the contract value and consider any local costs.  Add these to get the whole life cost, and award accordingly.

If you choose to Direct Award based on whole life cost it is your responsibility and risk; you should ensure that your evaluation process is in line with public procurement regulations and your organisation’s SFI's.

It should be noted that it would not be legitimate to continue to let a series of Direct Awards to the same Supplier for the purposes of avoiding competition or equally to create requirements that resulted in a shortlist of one Catalogue Solution.

  • Price and quality. Where the potential Call Off Ordering Party wishes and can differentiate the Catalogue Solutions that meet its requirements based on quality and price, the criteria below can be used within the ranges, thus:

Criteria Number

Award Criteria

Percentage Weightings





Non-Price Elements (including quality and technical merit)


You can choose one or more quality (non-price) elements and apply a percentage weighting to each of them, if the overall percentage weighting totals in the range 10-50%.

If there is genuinely only one Catalogue Solution available on the Buying Catalogue that meets your requirement, your evaluation will result in appointment of the Supplier of that Catalogue Solution.  As part of your audit trail, you should record a justification that describes how that Catalogue Solution is the only one on the Buying Catalogue that meets your requirement.

The evaluation of the non-price elements must be based on information you can find on the Catalogue Solution Listing (including the links to specific content such as Supplier asserted integrations and the Roadmap).  Examples of Non-Price Elements that you may wish to consider from the Solution Page Listing page include:

  • Features
  • Capabilities and Epics met
  • Service Level information
  • Integrations
  • Implementation Timescales
  • Minimum technical specifications for the application and hosting
  • Roadmap

You will need to define a scoring system for the price criteria where the lowest price scores the highest score.  You will also need to define a scoring system for your Non-Price Elements, in which the highest score represents the best price and the best quality.

Step 2: Review Catalogue Solutions

See what Catalogue Solutions are available to buy

Go to the Buying Catalogue and see what Catalogue Solutions are available. 

 Create a shortlist

Review all the Catalogue Solutions on the Buying Catalogue and create a shortlist of Catalogue Solutions that can meet your requirements by using the Capabilities and other information on the Catalogue Solution Listing page.

Step 3: Evaluate

If there is genuinely only one Catalogue Solution on your shortlist that fulfils your requirements, you have a shortlist of one and can select that Catalogue Solution and proceed to Step 4.

Identify the volumes you need to buy and other costs that will impact the whole life cost

You will need to define the volumes applicable to each unit of order for each of your shortlisted Catalogue Solutions (including any Additional Services you have shortlisted) and for each Associated Service you require in order to determine the total cost of each. 

Most Catalogue Solutions have a per patient unit of order based price that will be based on the number of patients registered with the Service Recipient.  The price of some Catalogue Solutions and Additional Services however, are based on users or other units of order (e.g. transaction volumes). You should ensure that you are treating all Catalogue Solutions equally when determining the number of units of order applicable to each.

You may also wish to consider your own costs that might vary depending on the solution, for example, local implementation costs, transition costs or internal training costs. You need to identify these costs before you begin the procurement so that they are applied fairly and appropriately to all Catalogue Solutions that you are evaluating.

Calculate costs

You must calculate the total Price for each Catalogue Solution on your shortlist, taking into account any Additional Services and Associated Services you require, applying the volumes you defined and any other costs you identified. An explanation and examples for calculating contract cost can be found in the Understanding Price pages.

If you find there isn’t enough information in the Catalogue Solution Listing to identify how much of any service to buy and that may impact the solution to which you award the contract, then you must use the Further Competition Off-Catalogue procedure.

Apply the criteria and score each Catalogue Solution

If you are using price only (with no non-price elements) select the Supplier of the Catalogue Solution with the lowest total cost. 

If you are using price with non-price elements score each Catalogue Solution using the criteria, weightings and scoring system.  The Supplier of the Catalogue Solution with the highest score is the preferred Supplier.

Step 4: Call Off Order Form and Award

Notify your preferred Supplier

Get in touch with the preferred Supplier as soon as possible.  You will need to ask the Supplier for the following information so that you can complete the Call Off Order Form:

  • For Section A
    • Supplier details such as address, contract representative and a Supplier reference number
  • For section C.2 if implementation is required
    • The milestone dates for implementation
    • An overview implementation plan if you want one
    • The implementation plans
  • For section D.1
    • Whether the Supplier has Commercially Sensitive Information
    • Whether the Supplier has any Exclusive Assets
  • Section D5.1
    • The Suppliers Data Protection Officer
  • Section D5.2
    • Any variation to default Personal Data Processing information if you wish to allow them to make amends

Complete Call Off Order Form

While you wait to hear from the Supplier, you can begin to complete the Call Off Order Form.  The Call Off Order Form is entirely paper-based and you as the purchaser are responsible for completing it to maintain control of the information.  In future, some and eventually all of the Call Off Order Form will be completed on the Buying Catalogue. More information on the Call Off Order Form is provided on the GP IT Futures Contracts pages.

If you withdraw the order because details cannot be agreed with the supplier and you evaluated more than one Catalogue Solution, you can choose whether the second place Catalogue Solution is suitable and offer that Supplier an order, or you can end the procurement process.


Once the Call Off Order Form has been completed, send it to the Supplier so that they can review and sign it.  If the Supplier agrees it is correct, they should sign it and send it back to you.

If the Supplier thinks anything is incorrect, they will discuss this with you and you can decide whether to a) correct the Call Off Order Form and send it back to the Supplier for signature or b) withdraw the order if you disagree.

Once the Supplier has signed the Call Off Order Form, you can sign it.


Once both parties have signed the Call Off Order Form you have awarded the contract to the winning supplier.

Send a copy of your Call Off Order Form to NHS Digital at .  For all organisations, this lets NHS Digital know who has a Call Off Agreement, which enables them to notify you of any issues with your Supplier.  For organisations in receipt of GMS funding, NHS Digital will arrange payment to the supplier.