I HAVE to start by stating a vested interest. I own and run a couple of small, boutique recruitment agencies supplying pharmacists, GPs and ANPs to primary care providers in the UK. We have low overheads, working from an office above Bedale post office in North Yorkshire.
I would love to offer our services to local NHS hospitals, but constantly come up against the plethora of framework agreements for the supply of staff to NHS trusts.
I have no problem with the idea that suppliers to the NHS have to prove a certain level of service to make sure that the staff supplied are qualified, have no history or wrong doing and maintain the required level of knowledge to allow them to deliver the service required.
What I do have a problem with, however is the daft, closed-shop nature of the framework agreements. Contracts are supposedly open to all businesses be they huge multinationals, SMEs or micro businesses, however, one of the framework criteria I read recently stated that any organisation who wished to join the framework had to have supplied 100,000 hours of cover in the last year! How many SMEs and micro businesses could get anywhere near this level?
So what happens is that the number of agencies able to supply on a framework agreement gets smaller and smaller (oh did I not tell you? You’re not supposed to supply to the NHS if you are not a framework, so there is no way of racking up 100,000 hours) and the costs increase.
We did successfully win a place on the framework a few years ago to supply pharmacists to NHS trusts, but guess what happened? The trusts just wanted to appoint a master vendor (i.e. one of the big boys) to cut down the time they spent sourcing cover – what was the point?
Simon Stevens, in a recent speech (#kflead) called for a reduction in the spend on agency staff, and there’s one easy way to do this – get rid of the framework agreements, and allow companies like mine, Medacy, to compete on an even playing field.
Shaun Hockey is pharmacist. He runs a medical recruitment company, Medacy. Check out his site for vacancies.
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