How to buy

How to use the NICE Electronic and Print Content Framework Agreement to buy medical and healthcare related content. 

Please note - Check you agree with the Order Terms and Conditions of the Framework before starting the buying process. If you do not agree with the Terms and Conditions contact your procurement department.

All purchasing decisions, as well as interpretation of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 in relation to the use of the Framework remains the responsibility of the purchaser.

Stages in the purchasing process

The buying process may be different depending on the content you are buying.

Stage 1: draft and agree requirements

Outline what you want to buy including any services, special terms or technical criteria you have – these are your requirements. Identify which criteria you think are essential and which are desirable.

Requirements could include (but are not limited to):

Content related criteria:

  • a specific type of content e.g. ejournals, Point of Care tool
  • the titles required
  • specific subject areas (e.g. cancer)
  • a maximum budget for your purchase.

Service related requirements:

  • How will users access an electronic Content Resource?
  • What usage terms are essential to your users?
  • Will your users need service support from the Provider e.g. for enquiries?
  • Are guaranteed availability levels for service required and if so, what is your minimum acceptance level?
  • Are there any Service Level Agreements (SLAs) or Key Performance Indicators that need regular reporting on from the Provider for the content purchased?

You should document all your requirements and store them in accordance with your organisation's procurement guidelines for auditing purposes.

Stage 2: Get approval to buy your content

You must get internal approval from the authorised person in your organisation (commonly the budget holder, check your organisations SFIs) before you start the buying process.

You should document your business case and store it in accordance with your organisation's procurement guidelines:

  • for business case sign-off to justify a purchase
  • for auditing purposes.

Stage 3: Identify which Provider/s can supply your content

Activity 1. Check who can supply the type of Content Resource(s) you wish to purchase

For example ejournals or databases. 

How do I do this?  - Check the Providers grid in the Provider information section.

Activity 2. Check which Providers can supply the titles you need

For the Providers identified in activity 1 above you should:

  • Review the Providers’ web catalogues to confirm they can supply the title(s) you need e.g. “Journal of XYZ”
  • Contact the identified Providers to confirm they can supply the title(s) you need.
    Note: do not ask for a quotation at this stage. Just check that the title(s) can be supplied.

How do I do this? - Check individual Provider web catalogue links and / or contact details in the Provider profiles section.

Note: if you have identified only one provider that can supply the content/titles you need, go straight to Stage 6: prepare and send your Invitation to Quote (ITQ).

Stage 4 - Identify the Lot for your purchasing requirements

1. Check the Provider grid to see which providers can supply your content and in which Lot. 

2. If a provider is in more than one Lot, choose the Lot that suits your requirements. 

There are two Lots in the Framework:

Each Lot has different licensing and agreement terms which set out the service levels and expected performance thresholds agreed with Providers. We call these the Service Standards.

It’s important to select the correct Lot for the Content Resource(s) you are buying so the licence / agreement meets both your content related and service related requirements.

Providers may be appointed to one, or both Lots, depending on whether:

  • they supply print or electronic Content Resource(s).
  • the Service Standards and expected performance thresholds specific to that Lot, are met by the Provider. e.g. for content access, usage and delivery requirements as well as contract management and reporting;
  • the Provider is an Agent or a print bookseller.

Which Lot should I use?

Lot 1

Content is supplied under the terms of the Health and Social Care Content (HSCC) Licence.

Point of Care (PoC) related Content Resources can only be supplied through Lot 1.

When should I use Lot 1?

It is advised you use Lot 1 for:

  • High-value purchases and/or those deemed high risk.
  • Where there is a requirement for strong measurement and reporting of contract performance. For example, where there is a need for the Provider to adhere to higher service levels and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or regular reporting requirements.
  • National and consortium purchases.

Providers appointed to Lot 1:

  • can only supply electronic Content Resources
  • cannot be an agent or a bookseller.

Lot 2

When should I use Lot 2?

It is advised you use Lot 2 for:

  • Content Resource purchases not deemed high risk or where the contract value is expected to be low.
  • Small purchases, such as individual subscriptions.
  • Purchases that do not require strong contract management.
  • When purchasing Content Resources through an agent or a bookseller.

Providers in Lot 2 can supply both print and/or electronic Content Resources.

The Service Standards offered and their related performance thresholds may differ to those offered in Lot 1. Each Provider may have a different performance threshold that needs to be assessed in Stage 5.

There are fewer essential Service Standards and lower performance thresholds in Lot 2. This is why we recommend you use the Lot for low risk / low-value contracts.

Providers appointed to Lot 2:

  • May supply print and / or electronic Content Resources.
  • Have their own set of terms in either a Provider Licence (for electronic resources) or Providers Agreement (for print products).  
  • Each set of terms differs from Provider to Provider unlike Lot 1 where everyone has agreed to the same Licence terms.

The Providers Licence and Providers Agreements must be used for purchases from this Lot with no amendments. The individual Lot 2 Provides’ licenses / Agreements can be downloaded from the provider profiles section.

Purchasing through an agent or bookseller

An Agent may supply print and/or electronic Content Resources. For the purposes of this Framework, a bookseller is also defined as an Agent.

If you’re buying content through an Agent (e.g. when purchasing subscriptions to multiple journals from a variety of publishers) you need to select your Provider from Lot 2 Agents only.

The content supply terms for Agents will be set out in the Agents Provider Agreement.

Note: if the Provider identified in Stage 3 is not in your chosen Lot, you will need to consider the terms in the Lot in which that Provider can supply your content. Not all Providers are in both Lots.

Stage 5: shortlist Provider(s) 

From the Providers identified in stages 3 and 4, further shortlist the Providers using the appropriate purchasing process below. This shortlist is the final list of Providers you will ask to quote against your purchasing requirements. 

No Providers identified?

  • Go back and review Stage 1. Are all your requirements absolutely essential to your purchase? Can any requirements be removed or are you willing to accept a lower performance threshold for any Service Standards?
  • If you are unable to change your requirements seek advice from your procurement department for guidance.

Only one Provider identified?

Use the direct call off single Provider process.

How to run the direct call-off single Provider process

Step 1 - Complete and send an Invitation to Quote (ITQ) under this Framework using the steps set out in Stage 6: Send your Invitation to Quote (ITQ).

Contact details for all Providers can be found in the provider profiles section.

Step 2 - Place your order using the steps set out in Stage 8: prepare your order.

More than one Provider identified?

If there are two or more Providers identified in Stage 3, choose one of the following purchasing processes:

  1. Lowest cost; or
  2. Mini competition

A. Lowest cost

Using lowest cost process means you cannot assess the Provider’s service offerings. You simply award based on which Provider offers the lowest price for your purchase.

Using this process means that no other consideration can be given other than the price. You must accept the Providers service offering as stated on this Framework. 

When and why use the lowest cost process?

Always use lowest cost for Lot 1. All the Providers in Lot 1 have agreed to the same service offerings, therefore there is no competition between these Providers.

Use lowest cost where you have budget restrictions that limit your ability to choose between suppliers service offerings.

Lowest cost - an example

You have three Providers on your list for Lot 2  and you are buying print journals.

  • Provider 1 can deliver your goods in 10 days and offers no library services. They price your requirement at £6,000.
  • Provider 2 can deliver your goods in 5-7 days and offers some library services. They price your requirement at £8,000.
  • Provider 3 can deliver your goods in 3 days and offers all the library services. They price your requirement at £10,000.

You must award to Provider 1 even though their service offering is low in comparison to Providers 2 and 3.

If this type of scenario is not suitable for your purchase, you must not use the Lowest Cost process, you must choose the Mini-competition process.

How to run the lowest cost process

1. Go to Stage 6: prepare and send your Invitation to Quote (ITQ).

In the ITQ simply add the details of your content and titles stating the Lot under which the purchase is being made asking for cost only. When the Providers respond to the ITQ the Provider with the lowest price wins.

2. Place your order using the steps set out in Stage 8: prepare your order.

B. Mini-competition process

Procurement regulations require you to fairly assess each Providers service. You cannot unfairly award a contract to a Provider based on personal preference or because you have had a contract with them before. 

You must fairly evaluate and score your shortlisted Providers against your service requirements and cost to identify the winning Provider - this is the mini-competition process.

How to evaluate your providers to find the winning providers

Design your evaluation methodology

  1. You can choose to use the evaluation matrix template provided or use your own evaluation methods to score each Providers’ ability to meet your requirements.

    Where Providers cannot meet your service requirements or have scored particularly low, these Providers will not be shortlisted and invited to quote. You must evaluate each Providers’ offering fairly and record your justification of why a Provider has not been shortlisted.

  2. Design your score system. You can use the scoring system in the evaluation template provided, or use your own. Always seek procurement advice.

    Note - If you choose to use the evaluation template provided you must seek approval from your Procurement department.

  3. Your evaluation method must include the following criteria which are detailed in the Service Standards documents found on the provider pages:

    • Pricing structures and cost efficiencies
    • service usage
    • service availability
    • service access
    • technical
    • service support
    • service performance.

    You do not need to use all the criteria, only those relevant to your purchase and requirements.

  4. Populate the evaluation matrix with all the requirements identified in stage 1. You must also add a line for cost.

  5. Assess each Providers service against each item in your evaluation matrix and apply a relevant score using your scoring system. It is highly advisable to make comments against your score. This forms the justification on your scoring and eventual award decisions.

  6. When you have assessed each Provider you will be able to see from your matrix:
    1. Any Provider that is not able to provide a requirement or requirements. Where a supplier cannot provide your requirement(s), you will not shortlist them and ask them to quote.
      *A Provider is not able to provide the requirement means that the requirement is not listed in their offering. They simply do not offer that particular service at all. Where the provider can offer that service, but the requirement is not exactly what you want, you must score it appropriately using your score system. 

    2. Providers that can provide all your requirements but have scored particularly low.  You can also choose not to shortlist these Providers. However, you must have good cause and reason. Record in your evaluation matrix why they have not been shortlisted to quote. You cannot disregard any Provider unfairly.

You are responsible for all your purchasing decisions - in the case of a challenge from any Provider, you must be able to defend your purchasing decisions.

At this point of the evaluation you will have your shortlist of Providers that you will invite to quote in Stage 6. Your final line for cost will not yet be completed - this happens in Stage 7. 

Stage 6: prepare and send your Invitation to Quote (ITQ)

If in Stage 5 you have identified only one Provider that can supply the content/titles and the service requirements for your purchase, skip to Stage 8.

The Invitation to Quote is a document that you send suppliers to invite them to submit a quote - a price for your purchase.

1. Prepare your ITQ

You can use:

  • your own ITQ document, or
  •  our ITQ template  -  seek approval from you Procurement department if using this template.

As you have already assessed Providers Service offerings in Stage 4, you do not need to add the details you identified in Stage 1 to the ITQ document. However, if you have requirements that are not included in the offering on the Framework, you will need to add these to your ITQ.

Your ITQ is a very simple document that details (but not limited to):

  • The content and titles you wish to purchase.
  • The quantity you wish to purchase.
  • The Lot you are purchasing under.
  • The number of users that will access the resources (in the case of electronic content).
  • The method of access to electronic content (e.g., OpenAthens , IP address, multiple).
  • Any requirements not included in the service offering on this framework (additional requirements must relate to the content you wish to purchase, it cannot add content or products not covered in the scope of this framework).
  • Additional servicing options
  • Instructions on how to respond to the quote.

This is not an invitation to tender. You should not need to provide any requirements that you have already assessed or ask any questions.

The Provider should only need to price your purchase and, on rare occasions, provide a response where a requirement is not included in the service offering on the template.

2. Complete your ITQ and send to your shortlist of providers.

Stage 7: assess the quote and add to your evaluation

Add the cost element to your evaluation matrix and complete the evaluation process in Stage 5.

You should now have a winning bidder who has scored the highest overall.

As a matter of best procurement practice, we advise that you notify the unsuccessful shortlisted Providers that they have been considered and offer feedback relating to the service offerings which have been evaluated. It is also advisable that you build in a standstill period after you have notified the successful and unsuccessful shortlisted supplier. 

Proceed to Stage 8: place your Order

Stage 8: prepare your order

Speak to your procurement department for advice on any instructions that need to be followed and/or internal documentation to be used when placing an order.

1. Check you agree with the Order Terms and Conditions, licence(s) and/or Provider Agreements

2. Complete the relevant annexes to the Order Terms and Conditions

Which Annexes do I complete?

  • Annex One: Specification
    Used to capture all the details of the Content Resources purchased, delivery timescales and format that have been agreed, as well as Authorised Users.

  • Annex Three: Pricing Schedule
    This Annex should set out details of the agreed costs, as well as invoicing timescales and details.

  • Annex Seven: Additional Terms
    This Annex must be used to set out the terms for any additional Service requirements under Lot 1 and Lot 2 which are not contained and agreed in the Health and Social Care Content (HSCC) Licence or the relevant Provider’s Licence/Agreement. Examples include the provision of terms for a technical specification for the provisions of an API, the ability to integrate content into local Resource Discovery Systems, local usage requirements.

You must not alter or amend the terms and conditions agreed under the Framework unless otherwise indicated. This includes the Order Terms and Conditions, the HSCC Licence and individual Lot 2 Providers Licence(s) / Agreement(s).

3. Add the relevant Licenses or Agreements. You can find these in the contractual documents section of the provider pages

Thoroughly read through these documents to ensure you fully understand the contractual terms you are agreeing to and the obligations of both parties subject to the contractual agreement.

Stage 9: send your order to the winning provider

Send a written order to your chosen Provider(s)

You must include:

  • full details of the Content Resource(s) and any additional servicing options you are purchasing
  • the price agreed with the Provider
  • the Framework Agreement contract number: NICEFAHEE/1619 and Lot
  • the 'Order Terms and Conditions' (include all completed annexes)
  • the 'HSCC Licence' and / or the relevant 'Lot 2 Providers Licence or Agreement'
  • instructions to the Provider to sign the Order Terms and Conditions (page 71) and the signature box 

Stage 10: sign agreement to finalise purchase

When the Agreement has been signed by both parties, send the Provider a copy of the fully signed contract and any internal Purchase Order number or contract number.

Your purchase is complete - the provider is now responsible for fulfilling the order as per the contract.

How to use the terms and conditions for your purchase

The following contractual documents must be used when purchasing:

  1. The Order Terms and Conditions

This is the master set of Terms and Conditions to be used for all purchases. It sets out the purchasing and supply terms for print and electronic Content Resources

  1. If using Lot 1 – the HSCC Licence. This is a pre-agreed set of licencing terms and forms part of the contract. 
  2. If using Lot 2 - the relevant Providers Licence or Agreement  - you can find these in the contractual documents section of the Provider pages

The terms in these documents may not be altered, changed or amended as they are pre-agreed with all the Providers unless otherwise indicated.

Which Licence / Agreement do I use?

This depends on the Lot you are purchasing from. Full details are provided in Stage 4: identify your Lot.

The Order Terms and Conditions should be used in conjunction with the relevant Licence Agreement and/or Lot 2 Providers Licence/Agreement.

These combined documents form the Agreement between the purchaser and appointed Framework Provider.

You must not use any other contractual documents sent to you by the Provider (for example a product licence) when purchasing under the Framework
However if you are purchasing under 'Lot 2 Agents only' you may also be required to sign a publisher licence for the individual content resource(s) purchased. The publisher licence will set out the published content usage terms: the Lot 2 Provider Agreement will set out supply terms from the Framework Provider.

Inform the Provider that their own terms are not applicable to this Framework and inform us where the Providers have sent you their own set of terms.

Framework terms and conditions

Each appointed Provider has also agreed to the terms in the 'Terms and Conditions of Contract for NICE Electronic and Print Content Framework Agreement’. This is the contract between the Framework Providers and NICE.

You do not use this agreement when purchasing. However, you may wish to view them to understand the agreed relationship between NICE and the appointed Framework Providers. 

     NICE Electronic and Print Content Framework Terms and Conditions of Contract   Word 100 Kb

Framework documents

  Order Terms and Conditions    Word 136 Kb

   HSCC Licence    Word 100 Kb

Individual Provider Licenses and Agreements can be found on the provider pages

Help guides

 ITQ template   Word 136 Kb

 Evaluation matrix template   Excel  136 Kb

 Requirements template   Excel 136 Kb

Framework help

Read our FAQ to see if your question has been answered

The Framework is provided by NICE on behalf of Health Education England.