In this article, Oliver Jansen, Associate Commercial Director at Remedium, offers thought leadership on why and how best clients can engage with NHS frameworks for permanent staffing.
It is essential for anyone responsible for NHS doctor recruitment to successfully balance a high standard of compliance and ethics with the need to keep costs to a minimum. Working with on-framework suppliers is key to achieving such balance.
Why work with on-framework suppliers?
Many of our clients are bound by procurement processes that determine which staffing frameworks they can work with. Although criteria for framework entrance varies, all staffing frameworks require a high level of ethics and compliance and dictate competitive fees that agencies must abide by. On-framework suppliers must comply with a standard set of terms and conditions and are audited and regulated by their respective organisations, assuring clients that they will receive high quality recruitment at a fair price.
Going off-framework: Expensive, unregulated and unprotected
Despite the clear benefits of working with on-framework suppliers, Remedium have learnt that many NHS Trusts continue to recruit doctors off-framework. When asked, clients have told us that such decisions are made out of pure desperation – due to the healthcare staffing crisis there are currently an estimated 10,000 permanent doctor vacancies across the NHS. The tendency to recruit off-framework is particularly evident in A&E, as the shortage of doctors in emergency medicine is so pervasive. However, this strategy is employed by desperate Trusts across all specialties where there is an NHS doctor shortage. Off-framework agencies can take advantage of an NHS in crisis in one of two ways – either by charging the NHS extortionate fees or by undercutting on-framework suppliers but leaving them exposed through unfavourable small print.
Going off-framework can have major consequences as these suppliers are free to offer as much or as little protection for clients or candidates as they see fit. Terms and conditions for an off-framework engagement are supplier led or owned, i.e. they can be individually modified at the supplier’s discretion and were written by the supplier. Supplier led terms are not vetted by the NHS governing bodies. In the past, this has meant that NHS organisations have been subject to unfavourable agreements and there have even been legal battles over engagements that have taken place off-framework. However, had these agreements been made using a framework, both the NHS Trust and the supplier would have been able to access the impartial mediation offered by the frameworks’ respective governing bodies.
At Remedium, we champion staffing frameworks precisely because we care about the future of our NHS. Framework approved agencies invest a lot in the process of getting on a framework, meeting stringent compliance, ethical and financial criteria.
Agencies who choose to work off-framework are free to charge the NHS as they please and ultimately benefit from despondent NHS Trusts who see no alternative to solving the doctor shortage
Engaging Framework-Approved NHS Recruiters: Best Practice
The process of engaging with an agency for permanent clinicians should be no different to how NHS Trusts select suppliers of agency locums – where it has long been considered unacceptable to operate off-framework.
To engage through a framework process wise, a call off agreement will be sent via the framework’s category lead for the signature of both the trust and the supplier. Correct call off documentation will be on letter headed paper from the framework you have selected. Any agreements that have not been agreed and signed off in this way are off framework or incomplete, leaving the trust exposed contractually.
Many trusts are approached by agencies, who claim a framework status. However, Remedium have found that as the guardians of best practice, we have had to take it upon ourselves to instigate full and proper framework call off arrangements with our clients.
As a trust, how many suppliers do you hold relevant, signed terms of business for and how many of these are on framework headed paper? This is a top tip for ensuring your suppliers are on framework and are engaging with you through the framework you have selected them from.
Remedium are fully recognised by the following NHS frameworks:
• Health Trust Europe National and International Permanent Recruitment Solutions with RPO – Lots 1a (UK to UK with RPO) and 1b (International Recruitment)
• National Clinical Staffing Framework – Lot 2b
• We are also signed up and fully adhere to the UK Code of Practice (CoP) for International Recruitment
Working with a reputable, on-framework recruitment consultancy
At Remedium, we understand that due to the doctor shortage in the UK, NHS Trusts may sometimes feel that they have no option but to work with off-framework agencies. Sourcing quality fixed-term and substantive UK doctors can be a challenge, but clients should be wary when agencies are not approved by a recognised framework. On-framework agencies should always be a first choice.
In a similar manner to locum recruitment, well run organisations will select their Preferred Suppliers Lists (PSL) by selecting the framework-approved suppliers that they would like to work with from the framework, or frameworks of their choice.
Remedium advocate for best practice recruitment for doctors across the NHS. Nevertheless, we understand that there are sometimes occasions where off-framework suppliers appear to demonstrate good capability and are seemingly the only option. Rather than going off-framework, our Remedium Solutions RPO team can advise and support NHS clients on how to ensure that any engagement is still subject to framework terms and conditions. As part of our RPO service, we can supply chain manage a PSL arrangement on your behalf.
At Remedium, we help NHS clients to improve their recruitment processes in order to better navigate the healthcare staffing crisis. Contact us today to find out more about how Remedium can support you to improve patient centred care and to drive down your recruitment spend.