Third of healthcare recruiters say most business is off-framework

Roughly a third (31%) of healthcare recruiters responding during a Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)-run webinar say most (60-100%) of their NHS business is done off-framework.

Thu, 6 Aug 2015


In findings released exclusively to Recruiter, roughly a third (31%) of healthcare recruiters responding during a Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)-run webinar say most (60-100%) of their NHS business is done off-framework. 

However, most (53%) respondents said NHS trusts they knew of contracted most agency staff via framework agreements.

Most NHS trusts manage agency spend through framework agreements, which cap rates. Rates are negotiated by central government, and recruitment agencies must adhere to them. 

But in times of urgent need, trusts are forced to go off-framework to secure the staff they need.

As one webinar participant commented: “NHS clients I have spoken to simply said ‘we have been told not to use off-contract suppliers for years, but... if you need a nurse you need a nurse. I’d rather get my wrist slapped by procurement than be on the front page due to poor frontline care’.”

One in 16 (6%) agencies believed trusts were contracting three quarters or more of their agency staff via off-framework arrangements.

Only one in eight agencies (13%) said they did not work off-framework at all. 

And it seems these recruiters are working around the clock to help fill staffing gaps in the NHS – almost two thirds (64%) fielded calls from NHS managers between the hours of midnight and 8am. 

Almost all (95%) respondents said they had fielded requests for agency doctors and nurses to fill a shift with less than 24 hours’ notice and 87% said they had been asked to fill bank holiday shifts.

A respondent said: “It is very difficult to cover short notice duties, as a lot of our nurses will be booked already, and a lot of them belong to multiple agencies.”

Two thirds (67%) said they received requests to fill up to 100 vacancies every week from each trust they work with, while a fifth (22%) said they are being asked to find staff to fill more than 200 NHS vacancies every week from each trust they work with.

REC policy advisor Vicky O’Brien said while trusts employ thousands of workers, “these figures show the critical role recruiters are playing in ensuring safe staffing levels to an NHS that is struggling to attract and retain healthcare professionals into substantive positions”.

“Increasingly, recruitment agencies are plugging the long term-vacancies that are the product of years of poor workforce planning by the government. With the secretary of state for health seeking to create a seven-day a week NHS, recruiters are likely to be called upon to ensure that the wards are staffed and patients keep receiving world-class care.”

But recruiters, as well as trusts, are struggling to get enough staff.

One webinar commenter said: “We are struggling to get GPs registering with us as there is a shortfall in GPs. We are finding a large number of GPs emigrating.”

O’Brien said recruiters, as well as trusts, were experiencing staff shortages “across a variety of staffing groups”.

In a statement, the REC said while the volume of agency staff in the NHS had increased in recent years, it still makes up just 2.9% of the NHS’s overall annual spend.

An average of 62 agencies responded to each question.

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