If there is one question I get asked several times a day, it is this:
“I run an off-framework agency and I want to supply healthcare recruitment services to the NHS – how can I do this?”
The answer is pretty short and sweet – technically you need to be an approved supplier on the relevant framework. These frameworks are usually awarded for 2 years with up to two 12 month extensions. If your timing isn’t good and the framework has recently been retendered, you will have a long wait as you can’t get onto a framework mid-term. Running these procurement exercises is incredibly expensive and time consuming, so whilst there are break clauses after 2 years and then annually thereafter, these contracts will usually run for the full duration.
NHS Healthcare Recruitment Frameworks
Brunton Bid Writing has collated a list of the main NHS frameworks for agency workers, UK permanent and international permanent recruitment and this can be downloaded free of charge HERE.
The frameworks run by HealthTrust Europe, CCS and Workforce Alliance technically cover the whole UK, however Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland run their own and you will find that hospitals in these countries will usually use the local country frameworks.
So if you’re not on a framework, what can you do to supply the NHS?
- Supplying the healthcare recruitment services to the NHS off-framework. This is not easy as technically these NHS frameworks are mandated, meaning that the hospitals can only purchase from an off-framework supplier if they cannot source the staff they need from the framework agencies. If you call Trusts directly, you will almost certainly be asked if you are on one of the relevant frameworks and if the answer is no, they are unlikely to take your enquiry any further. There are, however, off-framework agencies who supply to the NHS very successfully, so this is not impossible if you build trusted relationships and are in the right place at the right time. the only way to do this is via traditional business development, networking and relationship building.
- Subcontracting. Some of these contracts do not allow subcontracting at all, others only allow it via approved Master Vendor or Vendor Neutral suppliers and there are some that do allow subcontracting via approved suppliers. To become a subcontractor, you will need to build a relationship with a framework-approved agency and enter into a formal agreement with them that is relevant to the Contracting Authority you are wishing to supply.
- Bidding for ad hoc projects. Some NHS organisations run their own tender process for specific projects. These tend to be high volume international permanent recruitment projects and tenders are advertised via Find a Tender Service (or the in country equivalent such as Contracts Finder, Public Contracts Scotland, Sell2Wales or HSC Northern Ireland. You can find current tenders when they are published by subscribing to a tender notification service (do a Google search for tender notification services and you’ll find loads of them!).
- Focus on the private sector. Many agencies focus on developing business within the private sector rather than trying to supply the NHS off-framework until the relevant contract comes up for tender again. This is a very effective way to build up the track record that you are likely to need when these frameworks do finally come up for tender again (it’s also usually more profitable than the public sector!).
- COVID-19 outbreak exceptions. The March 2020 PPN publication from the Cabinet Office has made it permissible to award work directly due to extreme urgency under current public procurement regulations where no reasonable alternative or substitute exists using regulation 32(2)(c). If you view the Cabinet Office PPN and read the four bullet points on pages 3 and 4 of the Cabinet Office PPN document, you’ll see the conditions under which authorities may enter into contracts without competing or advertising. This means that Trusts can technically operate outside of the frameworks where the criteria contained within the Cabinet Office publication have been met. Our advice at this stage would be to build your network of contacts within the Trusts that you can supply, and explain what you can do to help them with the immediate situation. They will need reassurance that you can:
- Supply the staff needed more quickly than the framework suppliers.
- Guarantee that the staff being supplied will meet all of the NHS Employers standards and framework compliance conditions.
- Provide continuity of service (i.e. you can meet the hospital’s needs not just now, but in the months to come).
- Provide support aligned to the requirements of the existing contract (e.g. provide management information, account management etc).
- Offer sensible and competitive pricing and avoid artificially inflated rates.
As bid writing specialists, we do not offer business development services, so are unable to assist with finding tenders or providing introductions to NHS authorised suppliers.