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Staffing agency sues trust in framework row

Published on: 28 Feb 2024

A staffing agency is suing the NHS after it was denied a place on a major procurement framework.

Hull-based recruitment firm NL Group has claimed at the High Court that it was unlawfully denied a place on the updated “national framework for the provision of clinical and healthcare staffing”.

This is the successor to one of five approved framework agreements for recruiting clinical staff that NHS England has said trusts are required to procure agency staff through.

NL Group is listed on the current version, which expires in April.

The tendering process to gain a place on the new version was run through 2023 by the London Procurement Partnership, one of four NHS procurement hubs.

LPP ran the procurement on behalf of the NHS Workforce Alliance, a collaboration of the procurement hubs and Cabinet Office agency the Crown Commercial Service.

The company was told in December that its score was too low to be awarded a place on the framework. It began legal proceedings in January 2024 against Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, which hosts LPP and is therefore the “awarding authority” for the framework.

News of the claim comes shortly after NHSE told trusts it is going to clamp down on spending on temporary staff in the coming financial year.

NL Group says LPP scored its bid too low on six technical questions and one question on social value. It said each answer had been “comprehensive” and “demonstrated its exceptional understanding of the requirement”.

LPP breached its duties to be transparent and render equal treatment to all bidders by failing to tell the tenderers of sub-criteria to the six questions, “and/or applied undisclosed sub-criteria in its evaluation”, it added.

Defence documents say the company’s court submission was made later than the 30-day window in which to bring a claim. They also rejected the other claims.

They said a “reasonably well informed and normally diligent tenderer” would have understood from the specification that it needed to address specific points that the claimant had not included.

Both parties were approached for comment.