There’s mounting excitement (and indeed anxiety) about the forthcoming CCS Health Sector Resourcing framework tender which was due to be published in October 2018 and has now been postponed to the new year.
I’m being contacted daily by SME recruitment agencies who are keen to get onto this framework, and understandably so. The NHS mandated their frameworks on 1st April 2016, and technically, if you are not an authorised supplier under one of the frameworks (CCS, CPP or HealthTrust Europe), then you cannot supply agency workers directly to the NHS. I say technically because there is some off-framework supply in exceptional circumstances, but if you contact a hospital wishing to provide staff, you will be asked “are you on the framework?” and if the answer is “no”, then it will be extremely difficult to supply.
The CCS Health Sector Resourcing framework is the only agency workers framework that is due for re-tender in the immediate future, so this is the one to focus on in the short-term. This framework will generate a lot of opportunity for agencies, and by doing so, will also create work for a lot of bid writers, some of which are less scrupulous than others when it comes to gaining business!
We’re rather fed up of hearing about agencies that are being fed misleading information to scare them into signing up to large fee agreements before the tender is even published, so here are some pointers that may help you understand the framework, bid process and what you can do to prepare.
What is the CCS Health Sector Resourcing Framework going to cover?
The CCS has specified that this framework is going to be an overarching agreement which will replace the following current frameworks:
- RM 3711 Multidisciplinary Temporary Healthcare Workers – expires 31/08/2019
- RM 1072 Workforce Management – expires 14/06/2019
- RM 971 – Non Medical Non Clinical – expires 30/06/2019
The lotting structure is yet to be finalised, however it is anticipated that it will cover the following:
- Permanent recruitment services (clinical roles, including nursing, doctors, allied health professionals and social workers).
- Contingent labour services (clinical roles, including nursing, doctors, allied health professionals and social workers).
- Contingent labour services (non clinical roles, including administrative and clerical and professional).
- Managed staff bank services (clinical and non clinical roles).
- Tailored managed service solutions for one or more of the above services (clinical and non clinical roles).
Can SMEs and Micro-businesses participate?
Yes……41% of the CCS’s current spend on health frameworks is with SMEs and micro-businesses and the CCS has indicated that they are working on a strategy to try to help new entrants to participate. They do, however, have an obligation to evaluate stability, capability and quality as part of the process, and this is usually done in the following ways:
- Financial evaluation. In the past, the CCS has requested information relating to your financial performance to undertake a risk analysis based on several factors including but not limited to reviewing financial accounts, management information, forecasts/financial projections, D&B rating, CCJs etc. This is a pass/fail criterion, however details of exactly how they will evaluate financial standing are not available until the tender is published.
- Track record of previous supply of similar services. In the past, the CCS has specified that the agency must provide contract examples to demonstrate that they have supplied a minimum number of hours per agency workers or placements for permanent staff (as specified in the tender documents) relevant to the lots they are bidding for within a period of 12 calendar months in the last 3 years. This has been a pass/fail criterion. In addition to setting a such a threshold for participation on the Multidisciplinary Temporary Healthcare Workers framework back in 2015, the CCS has also set past performance thresholds on both the Permanent Recruitment framework (demonstrated by case studies which evidenced a set number of placements) and the Supply Teachers framework (demonstrated by a minimum number of supply teaching days within a 12 month period) in 2018, so we believe this model looks likely to continue in some form. All we can do is wait to see if they have found a way to evaluate new entrants to the sector without track record being a critical factor when the tender is published.
- References. Again, in past tenders, the CCS has asked agencies to provide contact information for up to 3 client referees who have used the services of the agency in the past.
What can I do to prepare for this framework?
There are several pass/fail criteria as part of this framework which will be answered by yes/no answers. These include the following:
- Insurances – you are likely to require £5 million cover in terms of third party public & products liability and employers’ liability. You may also need £2m-£5m professional indemnity cover.
- Cyber essentials certification provided by a Government approved Cyber Essentials accreditation body is mandatory. This provides a clear statement of the basic controls that you must implement to mitigate the risk of common internet-based threats. On previous CCS frameworks you must either have a current certificate or confirm that you will have certification in place prior to contract commencement. Again, this is a pass/fail criterion. More information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cyber-essentials-scheme-overview.
- NHS Employment Check Standards – these are mandatory compliance standards that your recruitment process must incorporate for provision of any staff to the NHS. Details can be found at: http://www.nhsemployers.org/your-workforce/recruit/employment-checks. We also provide policy/procedural templates that you can purchase on an ad hoc basis: https://www.bruntonbidwriting.co.uk/procedures-for-nhs-healthcare-tenders/.
- Training – agency workers must complete statutory and mandatory training and where relevant, job specific training (depending on the role). In previous years, it has been a requirement to have a contractual arrangement with a named service provider to provide Skills for Health Statutory & Mandatory and where appropriate Clinical/Care Core Skills Training OR a contractual agreement with a named provider whose training has been mapped against the Skills for Health framework and is listed in the Directory of Aligned Organisations OR an in-house training programme for which you have a Declaration of Alignment with the Skills for Health framework.
Can I complete this tender on my own?
Technically yes (I can’t believe I’m saying this as we’re bid writers to the recruitment sector)! Here’s our advice on how to approach it:
- Register with the CCS to obtain your unique “login” details for the portal.
- Download and read ALL the documentation. There is likely to be several documents including bidding instructions, the selection questionnaire, the award questionnaire, pricing schedules, contract terms and any number of other delcarations, recods of past performance and other templates that you will need to complete and upload as part of your tender.
- Ensure you read all the clarifications (questions and answers) which are published throughout the bidding window. These are important as they will help you to understand and interpret what is needed. If you are unsure of anything, we recommend you ask questions yourself – never just guess! All questions will need to be submitted via the portal.
- Be methodical – don’t be put off or frightened by the volume of documentation – it feels scary, but it’s genuinely intended to be clear and instructional.
- Use Microsoft Word as a working format to craft your answers to any qualitative questions. It is much easier to work with than the portal and will enable you to check your responses for content, evidence, completeness, spelling, grammar and character counts much more easily than typing straight onto the portal.
- Do not leave completing this tender until the last minute or underestimate how long it will take you to complete the work. The deadline is the deadline – you will not be able to submit after the deadline has elapsed, so plan your time wisely!
What should it cost if I want to outsource this work?
Some bid writers will work on a fixed cost and others on a day rate. Having written winning bids for the CCS, CPP, HTE, ESPO and many other public and private sector organisations for provision of recruitment services, we have never charged more than £6,500 + vat for a full outsource. For us, price will depend on the complexity of the documents and scope of the services you require.
We also offer a “consultancy and review service” which includes unlimited telephone and email support throughout the bid period and a full review of the portal once you have uploaded your bid to ensure your submission is accurate and complete at a significantly lower price.
When choosing an outsourced bid writing service, here’s our advice:
- Don’t pay in full for the service until you’ve seen the documents and ensured that you qualify!
- Look for a supplier that offers flexible services (you may only want to outsource part of the process rather than the whole bid – or even just use a “review” service). Make sure that your supplier understands your needs and can offer a tailored service.
- Expect to receive some free advice and guidance before you sign up. This might be a telephone discussion regarding your business and track record or even guidance documentation (we usually publish a free overview on our website for these large frameworks within a week of them being published).
- Ensure the individual that you work with has a proven track record of winning similar public sector bids personally (not just the company that they represent!). Ask them to tell you about their personal experience and success rate with these types of bids.
Good luck! And if you need further information, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01688 400319.