Cost of Living Support

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 autonomy. Examples of community equipment include:

  • Toileting – commodes, shower seats, raised toilet seats
  • Mobility Equipment - mobile or fixed hoists, lifting aids and slide-sheets
  • Walking – walking frames, sticks, etc.
  • Beds/Cots – specialised beds and cots, mattresses and sleep aids
  • Seating – standard and specialised chairs and seating
  • 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.

Essex County Council currently has a contract with Essex Cares Limited (ECL) who deliver, collect, clean, and refurbish the equipment. This service is provided across ECC Adult Social Care and through a number of Essex-based Health and Local Authority partners.

Market Rating

Having undertaken some recent market engagement it is clear that there are a 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 staffing of the equipment service is not likely to be as challenging as homecare or residential care. The markets for both the manufacture and distribution of equipment are strong and mature.

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

ECC rating of the market, assessed on the 10th November 2022.

The current contract for the provision of community equipment was established with ECL, as our Local Authority Trading Company, in March 2020. This contract was due to expire in March 2023, but is now anticipated to end in June 2023, following a short extension of facilitate a tender process for a new Integrated Community Equipment Loan Service (ICELS) from July 2023 onwards.

The current contract provides for the management of assessed and prescribed care equipment, from simple static aids to complex bed and hoist requirements. The service includes delivery, collection, repair, maintenance, recycling, and refurbishment of all equipment ranges, with the exception of those deemed to be single use or single deployment products.

ECL do not manage the sourcing of the equipment, with 70-75% of supply managed by the Community Equipment Service (CES), hosted as an Integrated Procurement Hub (IPH) by Croydon Council. ECC are one of 12 partners to this supply arrangement, with ECC accounting for ≈20% of the IPH spend.

Essex Market

Total Spend

£16.4m per annum

No. Providers


No. Adults per month


No. Items per month


No. Standard Items in Catalogue


Core Service Partners



The information shown in the table above is correct as of 31st October 2022

ECC have a good working relationship, based on shared priorities and a person-centred approach to this equipment service, with ECL. The ongoing supply and cost pressures demand that the efficiencies of the service must be optimised, and ECC and its NHS/CCG partners have completed a structured examination of the current arrangements and market options in order to pursue a best-practice solution to this requirement.

It has been agreed, with partners and via governance with key stakeholders, than a thorough market test of the equipment service is required in order to demonstrate that best practice can continue to be pursued and optimal value-for-money achieved.

Market engagement, conducted in November and December 2021 has allowed ECC to create a functional specification for the equipment service, which can be refined into a full delivery specification for testing in the open market.

The current COVID impact highlighted is:

The impact to service available due to staff within the equipment service is now significantly lower than this time last year and the provider is not reporting an ongoing impact of COVID-19 to the service.

Covid-19 outbreaks continue to affect the supply chains in East Asia, by reducing workforce, limiting throughput at the ports and creating an adverse supply-and-demand situation, but the overall availability of equipment, both domestically and internationally is much improved such Q2 of 2022.

Current market risks:

  • The current equipment service is at its highest throughput level in the last three years and at times demand has outstripped supply, with delays to collections and the return of collected stock to operational condition.
  • Supply risks for products manufactured in, or sourced from, China, due to Covid impacts, raw material shortages and the lack of shipping container availability has affected supply and should be monitored for future risk.
  • 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 area of focus is:

  • Consideration of alternative methods for equipment sourcing, away from using CES/IPH, in order to reduce costs and improve controls.
  • Market testing of entire equipment requirements for the establishment of a post-July 2023 equipment service
  • Sourcing by key specification, not proprietary product, in order to reduce costs, improve responsiveness and mitigate reliance on specific product ranges.
  • Engagement with other local government organisations to determine current solutions and pursuing best practice with future equipment services.
Last updated: 27/05/2022