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Award of Baby Deaths Research Contract Just Can’t Wait

Lengthy hiatuses are often the unfortunate result of disputes over the award of public contracts, but some of them are simply too important to be delayed. That was so in one case concerning a major research project to find out why stillbirths and deaths of new-born babies are more common in Britain than elsewhere in the developed world.

On behalf of the Department of Health, an independent health institute had put the contract to perform the nationwide project out to competitive tender. A not-for-profit company that was dedicated to the improvement of maternity care failed to win the contract but complained that the tendering process had been seriously flawed. Its complaint under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 had the effect of automatically suspending the contract’s award to the successful bidder.

In lifting the suspension at the institute’s behest, the High Court noted the public interest in such a nationally important contract being awarded as soon as possible. The company had raised serious issues to be tried concerning the tendering process but could be adequately compensated in damages for any loss that it had suffered. Breaking the impasse, the Court found that the balance of convenience came down in favour of the contract being promptly awarded to the winning tenderer.