NHS Frameworks: Revisited

The NHS Frameworks- Revisited



We’ve noticed that recently there’s been quite a lot of talk about the NHS Frameworks, and what they mean for locums. Well, this is an issue that does crop up every so often, and as always we’re only too happy to talk through any questions our locums may have.


What are the NHS Frameworks and what do they mean?

We’ve touched upon this in a previous blog post, but that was well over a year ago (we can’t believe it either!), and a lot has changed since then.

As you may well know, the NHS is very closely monitored and held accountable for the delivery of its service, and it’s success in meeting any set goals.  In an attempt to make the process of securing agency staff more transparent, understandable, and above all fair, the NHS has been trying to implement that Frameworks are in place for all trusts to use for recruiting agency staff.

What the Trusts are ‘supposed’ to be guaranteed is this: any agency member recruited through a framework agency is fully compliant and has more cost effective rates.

There are currently in existence 3 national frameworks. Crown Commercial Service (CCS), Health Trust Europe (HTE) and the London Procurement Partnership (LPP).


Where do QLS fit in?

Because of the recent pressure in all media from Jeremy Hunt and horror stories about people working in the NHS who aren’t suitably qualified, experienced or able to work in the UK, some trust procurement departments are knee jerking and putting pressure on departments to only use framework agencies.

This is not always feasible. Patient safety, safe staffing levels, targets, a need for a specific candidate with certain qualifications or experience all take precedent, and if a framework agency is not able to supply that, department heads look elsewhere.

At the time that the frameworks were last updated, the NHS were aware that many of its Trusts were using agencies like us, who were non-framework, but instead had individual contracts with NHS Trusts.

There’s one very simple reason why we are a non-framework agency, and we’re very honest about this fact. As part of the tender to be a part of the framework, we had to be able to provide all staffing types across the UK. The process is very clear; if you cannot supply all types of candidates across every department then you will not be accepted as a framework agency.

The consequence of this was that a lot of specialist agencies, including QLS, couldn’t achieve framework status, no matter how often we tried to make the argument that as a specialist agency we would never be able to provide all staffing types.

Sadly, some crafty agencies quickly cottoned on, and adapted their business so they could make it appear as though they provided all staffing types. In turn, this meant that the NHS has approved framework agencies that have ‘departments’ for all staff types, but have never actually placed a candidate in them.

Here at QLS, we have individual contracts or SLAs with NHS Trusts all over the country to supply them with agency staff. These contracts allow us to supply temporary staffing across the UK, framework or not. This means that currently, we are not affected by not being a part of all of these frameworks, and although we are currently in the tender process for some of the frameworks, our service to the NHS and our clients and candidates will not change. We adhere to the government guidelines and work to extremely high levels of excellence.




Crikey, so what ended up happening?

As you would expect, NHS Trusts were very quickly made aware of what some agencies were up to. As they would never compromise patient safety, many of these Trusts either continued, or formed new agreements with agencies like QLS, who could provide the staff they needed.

Again, this is where several opportunist agencies stepped in. As the Trusts now had no choice but to turn to non-framework agencies due to staff shortages, many began charging horrendously exaggerated fees. As you can see from our jobs page, we are not one of those companies. We have, and always will be upfront, honest, and transparent about our fees. We don’t believe holding the NHS over a barrel forms a healthy working relationship.

The NHS Trusts we have contracts with understand the culture of QLS. They use us because we respect the NHS, and don’t want to see it held to ransom.

Quite frankly, the NHS Frameworks wer created with the best of intentions, but have been used as a buzzword by opportunist companies to attack agencies like QLS who can actually supply the NHS properly and fairly.

If you have any further questions about NHS Frameworks, please contact one of our Consultants. They’ll be only too happy to talk you through any issues you should have.