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JUN 10/2019

Healthcare Professionals: Pros and Cons of Working with an NHS Framework Agency

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As an agency nurse, locum doctor or allied health professional, it is your duty to ask questions in order for you to be able to deliver the best care possible to your patients.

But what about the questions that affect your career? Questions like “What are NHS staffing frameworks?” and “Should I work with an NHS framework agency?” These queries can be just as important as they affect your working life.

As with any aspect of life, there are both advantages and disadvantages to working with an NHS framework agency. Fortunately, the positive aspects do outweigh the negatives. So what are the key facts that you should know before making your decision?

Advantages of working with an NHS framework agency

Access to a wide variety of jobs

Working with an NHS framework agency grants you access to a wide selection of jobs in a variety of locations and specialties. If you work through a tier one or master vendor framework agency, you get priority access because you will be offered the shifts before all other agency workers who perhaps locum through tier 2 or 3 framework agencies or non-framework agencies. It’s a bit like being given the chance to buy tickets to a concert before they go on general sale.

This ‘first-glimpse’ approach allows you the opportunity to plan your locum shifts weeks or even months in advance, thus avoiding a last-minute scramble for work. There is even the option to block book your shifts. As an agency nurse or locum healthcare professional, these aspects present ideal ways for you to take control of your career.

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Reassurance that you are working for a quality supplier

Being a part of an NHS framework isn’t something that is bestowed upon every agency. Gaining framework status is viewed as a symbol of trust between an agency and an NHS trust. It demonstrates that the agency is able to deliver high-quality services and build long-lasting relationships. It also reassures nurses, doctors and allied health professionals that the organisation is highly respected.

In order to become a ‘framework supplier’, agencies must apply through a tender process. This rigorous vetting process involves providing information about the organisation such as policies and procedures, providing reassurances over their ability to supply the quality and quantity of candidates required and detailing robust processes to meet the needs of framework customers.

Robust compliance and pre-employment checks

NHS framework agencies have auditing policies in place to ensure that each agency nurse and locum doctor or locum AHP is fully qualified and compliant with NHS Employers standards. These checks not only provide assurances to NHS clients that the agency can supply staff of high-quality and at competitive prices, but also provides you, the worker, with the peace of mind that you are working with a reputable organisation.

Reassurance that the supplier will avoid bankruptcy

In today’s ever-changing world, financial uncertainty is rife and agencies are far from susceptible to the perils of going out of business. Luckily, NHS framework agencies are financially vetted to ensure that the risk of them succumbing to bankruptcy is minimised.

Disadvantages of working with a framework agency

Potentially lower pay rates

While working with a framework agency gives you the pick of the shifts, it does mean that your pay rate may be capped. Under NHS Improvement rules around pay caps, framework agencies in England and Wales are restricted in the rates they can offer however, there are extenuating circumstances where rates will escalate, particularly in England. The same doesn’t apply to framework agencies in Scotland or non-framework agencies.

Each trust has set timeframes to fill shifts. These shifts are first offered to framework agencies with tier one status. If the shift remains unfilled the work will be offered to tier two framework agencies or back to the tier one at an escalated rate. If a willing worker still cannot be found, tier three and non-framework agencies may be able to pick up the shifts, usually at an increased pay rate.

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Less access to last-minute, high escalated rates 

If you are the type of agency nurse or healthcare professional who doesn’t have many commitments or favours the ‘wait-and-see’ approach when it comes to selecting your shifts, an off-framework agency may be a better choice as framework agencies are usually better suited to healthcare professionals that like to plan in advance.

However, it is important to understand that there will be times when your framework agency may be able to advise you of clients that are operating escalated rates at the last minute, especially if they are a tier 1 or master vendor agency, so don’t rule them out.

Robust compliance and pre-employment checks

Eagle-eyed readers may notice that ‘robust compliance and pre-employment checks’ appears as both a positive and a negative when it comes to working with a framework agency.

The reasoning behind this is simple. While policies may be in place to ensure that each agency nurse and locum healthcare professional is fully qualified and compliant, the process through which this is achieved can be time-consuming.

As well as the general paperwork that you’d expect to complete, you must also provide the following checks before your employer is able to recruit you for a position within the NHS:

  • Identity checks
  • Professional registration and qualification checks
  • Employment history and reference checks
  • Right to work checks
  • Work health assessment checks
  • Criminal record checks

Find out more

If you would like to learn more about framework agencies in England and Wales, contact us via email or call 0800 442 207 during office hours. For information on framework agencies in Scotland, please email or call 0141 225 5451 during office hours.

Alternatively, check out our agency nurse and locum doctor Finance series.

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