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Essex County Council - Provider Hub
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Market Context

The Integrated Community Equipment Loan Service (ICELS) provides, by way of loan, equipment to adults and children living in their own home to support them to maintain or increase their independence and support careers in their roles. Examples of community equipment include:

  • Toileting – commodes, shower seats, raised toilet seats.
  • Mobility Equipment - mobile or fixed hoists, lifting aids and moving and handling equipment
  • Walking – walking frames, sticks, etc.
  • Beds – specialised beds, mattresses and accessories.
  • Seating – standard and specialised chairs and seating.
  • Hoists – including ceiling track hoists.
  • Medical/Surgical – disposable medical and surgical support equipment.

Equipment can be provided to support an urgent and non-urgent hospital discharge or be provided following an assessment of need for someone in the community. Equipment is also provided to support children in education environments.

Essex County Council have established a contract for the provision of the equipment, with Medequip Assistive Technology, which commenced on 1st July 2023, and this includes the delivery, collection, cleaning, maintenance/testing and refurbishment of the equipment.

This service is provided across ECC Adult Social Care, Family Ops and Education and through a number of Essex-based Health and Local Authority partners.

Market Rating

Having conducted a tender process for the community equipment just over a year ago, and subsequent reviews of the market, it is clear that there are a small number of high quality and motivated providers in the market. The Council anticipates that demand for the service will remain high as more people are supported to live in their own homes. It is thought that the staffing of the equipment service for the next five years will not represent a significant challenge.

The quality of equipment providers is generally good, ensuring reliable service delivery and the markets for both the manufacturing and distribution of equipment are strong and mature. The community equipment service is continually evolving to meet changing needs.

Market Quality Market Supply ECC Demand
Good Good High
ECC Ambition Market Workforce Market Maturity
Increase Supply Good Evolving

ECC rating of the market, assessed on 31st March 2024.

The previous contract for the provision of community equipment was established with ECL, as Essex County Council’s Local Authority Trading Company, in March 2020. This contract was due to expire in March 2023, but this was extended to the end of June 2023, to facilitate the tender and mobilisation processes for the new Integrated Community Equipment Loan Service (ICELS) from July 2023 onwards. The sourcing of equipment under this previous contract was conducted separately to the distribution and service provision, with 80-85% of supply managed by the Integrated Procurement Hub (IPH) undertaken by Croydon Council. Whereas the contract with Medequip ensures all sourcing is undertaken by the contract holder, with no involvement of third-party sourcing routes.

ECC are now contracted with one of the leading organisations within this market. The contract with Medequip aims to evolve the service through a more detailed specification of requirements, clear social value and climate goals, and through continuous improvement and innovation with a market leading organisation. The scope for these improvements is vast due to the economies of scale the provider holds, and the expertise within the field. The current contract runs to June 2028, with the option for an extension of up to 24 months.

Essex Market  
Total Spend £8m per annum*
No. Providers 1
No. Adults/Children per month ≈5,000*
No. Items per month ≈12,000*
No. Standard Items in Catalogue ≈370*
Core NHS and LA Service Partners 4 (EPUT, MSE, Thurrock Council, ESNEFT)

The information shown in the table(s) above is correct as of 31st March 2024.

*It is anticipated that the above figures will be subject to change over the next 12-24 months.

Essex County Council and Medequip continue to work together to deliver the vision for the equipment service for Essex, ensuring that service users are at the heart of the service whilst ensuring best practice.

As expected with a contract of this nature, and the difficult transition from the previous provider, mobilisation of the contract incurred difficulties. The ICELS team at ECC continue to drive to ensure that the vision of the service and the specification is fulfilled, ensuring that the provider fully understands their obligations, but also provides their expertise. Over the next 6 – 12 months, it is expected that ECC will make considerable moves to ensuring the vision of the equipment service is achieved, and that the data and reporting is available to prove this.

The collaborative nature of the relationship means that where issues and concerns do arise, these are addressed and resolved quickly and efficiently.

There are now very limited COVID risks and impacts, with the availability of staff within the equipment service no longer affected.

COVID-19 outbreaks have affected some elements of the supply chains in East Asia, by limiting throughput at the ports and creating an adverse supply-and-demand situation, but no noticeable impact on the overall availability of equipment, both domestically and internationally is being reported.

Current market risks:

  • The market is stable overall, but external factors such as shipping remain relevant, such as shipping routes via the Suez Canal. Medequip provide clear and updated supplier analysis which advises which suppliers may be affected by these issues.
  • The culture shift for prescribers to the new service specification and working practices.
  • Risks of delayed hospital discharges or community referrals due to lack of suitable equipment to support discharge and recovery.
  • Risks of failure of UK equipment service market, preventing ECC from effectively market testing future equipment contracts.

Our current areas of focus are:

  • Aligning Medequip performance with the specification of requirements, including approved assessor, adaptations and ceiling track hoist requirements.
  • Working closely with clinical lead to ensure that service is in line with expectation.
  • Ensuring that charging mechanisms are accurately reflected on the invoicing.
  • Working collaboratively with the provider and partners regarding the future of planned preventative maintenance under this contract in line with market research and recommendations.
  • Working closely with the provider with a risk-based approach to outstanding planned preventative maintenance.
  • Working with the provider and the ECC Data and Intelligence Manager to produce clear data and reporting which can be used to understand the current service, decipher areas of concern and improvement and provide evidence where required.
  • Working with the partnership and provider to ensure that the governance boards include the correct level and skillset of attendee, and ensuring that the minuting and actions are closely managed, with the assistance of the ICELS business support administrator.
  • Engagement with other health partners and local government organisations to determine current solutions and pursue best practice and innovation.
Last updated: 31/03/2024