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20/39 TAR Retender - Supporting Information



Commissioning Brief Specification Document - Supporting Information


The NIHR invites full proposals from suitable research organisations to undertake Technology Assessment Reviews (TARs) primarily for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). It is expected that around eight to ten research teams or reviews units will be awarded contracts for this work and the NIHR will be awarding the equivalent of 159 short reports per year, across the successful applicants. The contract will be awarded for a period of five years, with effect from April 2022. The standard Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) contract will apply. 
Contractors will be expected to engage in wider strategic discussions with the Director of the NIHR’s Evidence Synthesis Programme about all aspects of the programme’s work. The Director will maintain a strategic overview of the Programme, linking this work to activity in other parts of the NIHR programmes and to the interests of the DHSC. Contractors will be required to work cooperatively with:
  • The Director of the Evidence Synthesis Programme
  • NIHR 
  • NICE
  • Other policy customers, if required
  • Other academic groups involved in delivering similar research contracts

Timetable and assessment of applications

  • Full proposals must be submitted via the online application form by 13:00 on 3 July 2020
  • Research teams may be invited to present their application to the TARs Contract Commissioning Committee in early September 2020
  • Final outcomes will be notified by the end of September 2020
Applications to this call will be reviewed for competitiveness, a demonstrable understanding of the service requirement and an ability to meet the specified criteria. Applications will be considered by the TARs Research Contract Commissioning Committee, where applicants may be invited to present their proposal.

The selection criteria will include:
  • A solid institutional base: an established organisation with university, NHS or healthcare links and structures for developing and recruiting high quality staff. A record in attracting funding from recognised sources would be helpful
  • Multi-disciplinary scientific skills: a high degree of multi-disciplinary working will be essential given the often complex nature of the issues raised by new technologies within health and social care services. Skills will include evidence synthesis including information science, critical appraisal, health economics and economic modelling/operational research, epidemiology and statistics, and qualitative research
  • Organisational capacity to undertake the work, given other commitments and contingencies – including annual leave
  • An ability to schedule and project manage work to ensure that long and short reports are completed to deadlines
  • An ability to respond to timeline changes where possible and pick up allocated reports at short notice, if required
  • Evidence of access to a network of experts who can support evidence synthesis production and interpretations in an advisory capacity, including academic and service delivery experts in public health, health services and a broad range of disciplines where appropriate (such as social policy, psychology and sociology)
  • Established links with the NHS: familiarity with service issues is essential; familiarity with DHSC and NIHR policy and goals would be helpful
In addition to the criteria above, assessment will be looking to see that the teams have:
  • understood the need for an appropriate mix of staff
  • understood and acknowledged that the primary outputs of the contract will be short reports
  • arrangements in place to provide staff with sufficient activities of an academic nature to ensure their continuing personal and career development
It should be noted that the commissioning committee have the discretion to award successful applicants with a number of reports different to the amount originally bid for.

Application process

Applications must be submitted through the MIS on-line NIHR Standard Application Form (SAF). Some of the questions on the SAF are not required for this call for proposals: applicants should use the 20/39 TAR Retender - Application Form Guidance Notes when completing the form.


NETSCC will specify the reviews to be undertaken. Commissioning and monitoring will be managed by the Evidence Synthesis Programme. The timetables to which reports must be delivered are tight and can be subject to change. Methodologies employed to date have been developed taking account of time constraints. Reviews undertaken for NICE will need to refer to their published methods guides (see below).
There are broadly two types of review reports:
  • Short reports: will form the majority of work in this contract. They comprise of reviews of submissions to NICE by technology sponsors and others, including clinical and economic evidence. These reports will support the NICE decision-making process
  • Long reports: comprise of evidence synthesis and, usually, systematic reviews of available evidence on effectiveness and estimates of cost-effectiveness. They will include statements of fact but stop short of making policy recommendations. They will take account of clinical and economic evidence submitted by stakeholders and their purpose will be to support NICE and other customers’ decision-making processes
In addition, teams will be expected to provide appropriate representation at mandatory meetings with NICE and to provide expert support to NICE and other customers in meetings with stakeholders. If undertaking work for other policy customers, appropriate representation at occasional meetings will be required.
Applicants should follow the links below for detailed background on the areas supported by this contract, and the methodologies used:

Payments and finances

Payments in respect of contracted work will be based on TAR Units which in turn are based on long or short reports (see above). As an indication, one unit is the equivalent to one short report and 2.67 units are approximately equivalent to one long report. All payments in respect of the work undertaken within the contract agreement will be made according to this ratio. As a guide, short reports (one TAR unit) are paid at £70,000, with long reports costing no more than £186,900 (to include all FEC and overheads). Below is a list of current reports and their unit classification:
TypeStandard TAR Unit Cost
NICE TAR (Multiple Technology Appraisal process) 2.67
NICE Evidence Review Group Report (Single Technology Appraisal and Fast Track Appraisal process) 1
NICE Evidence Review Group Report (Highly Specialised Technology process) 1.33
NICE Rapid Review (Single Technology Appraisal process) 0.27
NICE Cancer Drugs Fund review (Single Technology Appraisal process)  0.27
NICE Diagnostic Assessment Report (Diagnostic Assessment process) 2.67
NICE Assessment Update Review (Diagnostic Assessment process)  1
HTA TAR  2.67
HTA Short report 1
HTA Scoping paper 0.27-0.54
Using NICE’s appraisal timeline, applicants are asked to state the equivalent number of short reports that they will be able to carry out per year. It should be noted that short reports will form the majority of the contracted work. Applicants are also asked to comment on their ability to increase capacity for the number of units over time, if required. 
The contract will not include annual inflationary uplift. Any year-on-year increases in staff costs will need to be budgeted for within the amount awarded for the contract.

Resourcing and administration

We will be commissioning for expertise in reviewing complex literature and in general knowledge of health service research and management topics. Likely minimum staffing requirements for a successful team are:
  • A Director who will take overall responsibility for the quality assurance and timely delivery of reports and who has authority to re-deploy resources
  • Dedicated senior staff time: to supervise, take responsibility for and quality assure each report, and be available to discuss key issues with NETSCC and NICE
  • Scientific staff skilled in systematic reviewing, health economics and modelling
  • Access to appropriate levels of content expertise
  • Senior project management/scientific administrator expertise
The contractors will be required to provide administrative support to all systems and structures used for the execution of the assessment reports and demonstrate how this will be managed.

Contract management

The research contract for the provision of Technology Assessment Reviews will be between the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Contractor, and will be managed by NETSCC. An agreed Scope of Work is in place to specify roles and responsibilities.
As part of the contract, it is agreed that NETSCC will provide detailed project specifications; monitor ongoing projects and take receipt of outputs. For long reports NETSCC will also commission peer review of outputs, agree final reports with reviewers and make recommendations for publication in the NIHR Journals Library subject to successful completion of the editorial process.
The contractors will monitor projects and report on the programme or individual projects within it as required. They will also ensure that the timetable is adhered to and that milestones are being achieved in order to ensure quality and timeliness of delivery.
Contractors will liaise with the contract manager at NETSCC as required by the contract monitoring system. The purpose of the monitoring system is to enable discussion on the current and future work programme and any difficulties that may have arisen in the operation of the contract.

Probity and handling competing interests

Contractors will need to ensure that they are not prevented from fully supporting NICE’s processes due to a conflict of interest. Any competing interests should be declared to NETSCC with checks made at each of the following stages:
  • Prior to allocation of any assessment work
  • At the point of final commissioning

All conflicts of interest previously highlighted should be included in protocols and assessment reports.

Briefly, contractors will be precluded if they have had any financial relationships or interests in a company associated with the appraisal in question. The full policy concerning competing interests is in included in this application pack.

Research capacity building

Contractors are expected to have experience in this type of work and have links to existing established groups working in this area. However, Technology Assessment Review is a continually developing area and it is therefore expected that the successful contractors will collaborate with colleagues in the field to develop thinking in terms of methodological approaches.
The NIHR acknowledges the need to support this activity and the notional cost of a TAR unit includes a training element of £2,000. Applicants should acknowledge this in their applications. In addition, an annual payment will be made to each successful group to fund appropriate training activities. The exact amount will be confirmed at a later date and should not be included as part of the application.

Detailed project description for ESP 20/39

It is mandatory to submit a detailed project description as part of your application. This is a fuller account of the proposed project than can be provided in the limited space allowed in the Scientific Abstract/Plain English Summary sections of the application form. Whilst we are trying to keep duplication to a minimum, we do accept that there will be a level of duplication between these sections. The applicant should provide concise and succinct information to the questions within the Scientific Abstract/Plain English Summary, which will be held within our database for future reference. Detailed information should be included in the upload of the detailed project information. This must be uploaded before the application form is submitted.
Applicants applying for ESP 20/39 must cover the following areas in their project description:
  • A consideration of the issues raised in this call for proposals
  • A statement of the general approach to be adopted
  • The applicant’s view of the critical success and risk factors
  • A consideration of measures to provide services of higher quality or at lower cost
  • Brief CVs of key people in the application, the roles of these individuals and their level of input
  • Arrangements for strategic management of the work
Any other documents that are attached will be accessed at the assessors’ discretion.