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NHS launches National Clinical Staffing Framework: comprehensive and free to access framework to meet all 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.

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

Developed by the NHS Collaborative Procurement Partnership, 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 NHS Collaborative Procurement Partnership (‘CPP’) 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 CPP in May 2014 and has been used by the majority of NHS organisations, achieving savings of circa £50m. 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; and through 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 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 CPP steering group, comments that “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, 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 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 adds, “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. For more information please visit the website.

The benefits to NHS organisations of using the NHS national Clinical Staffing Framework to fulfil clinical staffing needs:

Built by experienced NHS agency and temporary staffing procurement teams, committed to supporting the NHS to manage the supply of quality staff

  • Compliance

The first framework to meet current regulatory requirements specified by NHS Improvement

Built-in flexibility so that if NHS Improvement amends the caps or other rules, agencies awarded places on the framework adapt their prices

Many agencies are new to the framework – off-framework supply encouraged increases in rates paid for staff and no guarantee of quality; bringing agencies under the framework gives the NHS greater access to compliant agencies and quality clinical staff

  • Quality assurance - patient safety and patient care will always come first

Pre-award, on-site audits of every agency applying for a place on the framework have been undertaken

There will be ongoing audits of all agencies awarded a place on the framework – annual, on-site visits, and immediate removal from the framework for agencies failing an audit

Established links with NHS Protect and other bodies ensures fast action if agencies later fail to meet the quality and financial standards imposed by the framework

The quality and training thresholds required of clinical staff provided by agencies exceeds that of permanent staff

  • Implementation and ongoing management support to maximise the benefits to NHS organisations

Regional implementation support from hubs – hub expertise and advice supports NHS organisations to get the best value out of the framework

Strategic management of the supply chain by the hubs, based on trust and supplier useage data – hub teams work with local NHS teams to minimise the need for ‘exceptions’ resulting in exceeding the rate caps

  • Easy, flexible, free and ready to access now

The framework is free to the NHS and other relevant public sector organisations

Options to use a variety of models of supply (Employment Agency, Master Vendor, Neutral Vendor, or the appointment of one supplier to provide temporary staffing for all clinical groups

Detailed user guides ensure consistency of approach and ease of implementation

Bespoke evaluation tool makes it easy to compare and contrast appropriate agencies

09-08-16    Agency

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