Changes to national policing forensics contracts unveiled

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has revealed upcoming changes to the way policing manages forensic science contracts and other commercial functions across England and Wales following a joint review.

Mar 10, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Picture: BlueLight Commercial

From the start of April 2023, five national frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems (DPS) will move to BlueLight Commercial (BLC) from the Forensic Capability Network’s (FCN) host organisation the Dorset police and crime commissioner (PCC).

NPCC lead for forensics, Chief Constable Nick Dean, said the transfer of national forensic commercial activities to BLC “makes sense”.

Since being established in 2020, both BLC and FCN have worked closely on national commercial forensic activity. In future, BLC will take strategic responsibility for all national forensic contracting and procurement activity with FCN responsible for operational services.

The five frameworks and purchasing systems include: the Digital Forensics Services DPS, Mobile Preliminary Roads Drugs Testing Devices (MPRDTD) DPS, National Scenes of Crime Consumables (NSoCC) Frameworks, the PACE DNA Sampling Kit Framework, and any future national Framework for the Provision of Medical SFR Services.

This is in addition to the “next generation” Procurement DPS for physical forensics and the Drug Testing on Arrest Re-tender and NSOCC Re-tender already held by BLC.

Three FCN members of staff who previously worked on these activities – Barbara Smedley, Ruth Hinks and Murray Smith – will transfer to BLC at the beginning of April to continue their work.

The NPCC says running forensic contracts and frameworks nationally strengthens a fragile forensic marketplace and saves policing significant money and resources, while still giving local forces flexibility over which services they use.

For example, 32 contracts have been awarded via the Digital Forensic DPS since it was launched by FCN two years ago, enabling forces to access 25 suppliers offering a range of services from computer and mobile devices to audio analysis.

In line with the changes, BLC and FCN have also formally agreed roles and responsibilities between the two organisations via a new memorandum of understanding.

BLC will be responsible for strategic contractual management of services across the whole commercial lifecycle.

FCN will look after operational management of services such as monitoring and reporting on supply and demand, as well as crisis management and contingency planning by facilitating policing’s operational response to incidents.

Both organisations will continue to jointly engage and work directly with police forces and suppliers.

Mr Dean, said: “The transfer of these national forensic commercial activities to BlueLight Commercial makes sense. It means FCN’s forensic experts can keep doing the scientific work they’re best at, and BlueLight’s commercial experts can do theirs.

“Since they were established, FCN and BlueLight’s teams have put in literally thousands of hours of hard work helping to mitigate crises and set-up ground-breaking new national frameworks. For that I’m very grateful.

“To create a stable forensic marketplace which can meet demand, we must get the national approach right. The new approach has been designed with forces locally and regionally, so I’m confident it will meet their needs.

“It’s an excellent example of two vital national capabilities working together in a pragmatic way for the benefit of policing, providers and ultimately the public.”

Association of Police and Crime Commissioners lead for forensics, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough PCC Darryl Preston, said: “We need a robust, reliable supply of forensic services and this change takes us closer to achieving it. There have been too many critical incidents in the forensic marketplace in recent years and we’ve nearly seen the market collapse on several occasions. I applaud efforts being made across policing, led by BlueLight Commercial and FCN and working with industry.”

The NPCC said police stakeholders and suppliers should contact their usual BLC and FCN contacts with any questions.

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