Logo: NHS East of England Collaborative Procurement Hub
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NHS CPP Launches New National Clinical Staffing Framework
08 August 2016

NHS CPP launches National Clinical Staffing Framework – comprehensive and free to access framework to meet all NHS clinical staffing needs.

The NHS now has access, at no charge, to the first National Clinical Staffing framework supporting compliance with NHS Improvement’s caps on agency staffing pay and charge rates – a major boon to NHS teams fighting to control spiralling agency staffing costs.

Developed by the NHS Collaborative Procurement Partnership (NHS CPP) the framework gives NHS organisations access to agencies which have been fully and independently audited, and which met the criteria for the cost-effective, supply of quality staff. In addition, it facilitates the recruitment of staff to permanent positions.

The four NHS collaborative procurement hubs - NHS Commercial Solutions, NHS North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative, East of England NHS Collaborative Procurement Hub and NHS London Procurement Partnership – have once again worked together under the umbrella of the NHS Collaborative Procurement Partnership to provide a national, not-for-profit solution to this major challenge for the NHS.

The rising costs of NHS agency staffing

Over the last few years, the amount of money spent on agency staffing has increased to around £3.3 billion per year. In late 2015, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority (now part of NHS Improvement) set maximum rates the NHS should pay for temporary staff – those rates were lowered again in February and April 2016. 

The new framework replaces the first national NHS framework for the supply of nursing and nursing-related staff which expires in September 2016. This was launched by the NHS CPP in May 2014 and has been used by the majority of NHS organisations, achieving savings of circa £50million. The new National Clinical Staffing Framework has been developed by the NHS hubs in consultation with NHS HR Directors, Staff Bank Managers and procurement specialists from across the NHS. Throughout the process there has been close working with NHS Improvement to develop a framework tailored around the current rules. Agencies have also been consulted during the development period, and their proposals for the best ways for the NHS to manage costs and demand without compromising clinical quality and patient safety were taken into consideration.

The resultant National Clinical Staffing framework also covers permanent recruitment from within the UK through employment agencies. Trusts and other public sector bodies are able to use agencies awarded a place on the framework directly. 

By the NHS, for the NHS – and free to access

Alyson Brett, Chief Executive of NHS Commercial Solutions and sponsor of the new framework on behalf of the NHS CPP steering group, said: “The NHS needs a fully comprehensive clinical staffing framework which supports it to manage temporary staffing costs. Above all, Trusts need to be confident that they are employing high quality agency staff who will provide the best care for patients. This framework – which includes annual independent auditing of agencies providing staff to the NHS, a transparent pricing mechanism designed to flex if NHS Improvement changes rates or other employment criteria, and ensures a recruitment process which is fully compliant with UK and EU legislation - does just that.

“In addition this is an NHS-built solution for the NHS. No element of the expenditure on agency staffing which goes through this framework ends up in private sector shareholder pockets, but is reinvested in the NHS.”

Although a national framework, the four hub agency staffing teams will be available to provide full support to organisations accessing the framework. Alyson Brett comments, “We have expert teams on the ground who will work with the NHS to implement the framework, get best value out of it, and benefit from our strategic management of the supply market.”

The options for supply under the framework

The framework is arranged into three lots,offering a variety of supply models. Each lot is open to the NHS and other public bodies. To add to the user friendliness of the framework, the NHS CPP has developed a supplier selection tool which Trusts can choose to use. In short, users select the job role they need to fill, choose to review all or a selection of potential suppliers, identify their criteria for supplier selection, and the system then provides a ranking of those agencies which meet the criteria.

Audits – essential to maintaining the quality of agencies and the staff they supply to the NHS

A critical feature of the National Clinical Staffing Framework is the requirement for every agency to be evaluated each year by an independent auditor, commissioned by NHS CPP and at no cost to participating Trusts. The audit involves an inspection of temporary worker files and includes, for example, that appropriate checks have been made in relation to identity, right to work, training, professional qualifications and registration, and criminal record checks, amongst others.  

The results of the most recent file audits are made available for review by NHS organisations. Alyson Brett added: “It is important to note that the regulatory checks required for temporary workers are more thorough and more regular than checks required of permanent clinical staff in the NHS. The quality of staff provided by framework agencies is absolutely key to the work we have done in building this framework.”

The framework went live on 8th August and will run for two years. The unprecedented interest in this opportunity has generated a framework on which more than 400 staffing agencies have been awarded a place.

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