What is a 'Framework Agency'?

From the 19th October 2015 NHS trusts throughout the UK will be forced to secure agency staff, should they require it, via a pre-approved network of agencies - 'Framework Agencies'. 

Dubbed 'Framework Agencies', they have all subscribed to a framework agreement - a set of rules and guidelines set out by the government. You should seek advise from your agency to see if they have subscribed to the new guidance.


Agencies are being assessed to join the Framework on an individual basis by Monitor and the Trust Development Authority and membership to the framework will be constantly reviewed to ensure high standards and compliance to the criteria.


In 2014/15, NHS providers spent £3.3 billion on temporary staff the primary aim of the framework is to reduce this spend. Monitor / TDA have established maximum agency budgets for each individual trust. The secondary aim of the framework is to bring greater transparency and clearer rules forward in the use of agency or temporary staff.

You can view the new rules regarding the use of agency staff for NHS trusts but the most important points are as follows;

  • Trusts must not exceed the maximum rates of pay which are published in their framework agreements.
  • Hourly price-caps are provisional and unpublished - they will remain under negotiation for the next few months and are expected to be formally set in April of 2016.
  • While maximum rates should not be exceeded, they equally do not have to be paid and trusts should use their resources wisely. Trusts are encouraged to negotiate the best deal they can.
  • Under exceptional circumstances trusts may use non-framework agencies but require prior approval from Monitor / TDA alongside evidence to support their request. They however must still stick to their maximum hourly rate of pay and the following information must be submitted; date, type of nurse, shift, reason for exceptional circumstance, price paid, name of agency and the name of the director who has submitted the request.
  • Trusts must stick to their annual agency spend budget.

It should be noted that these rules are not being enforced upon Foundation Trusts and trusts outside of NHS England - they remain in control of their budget / spend but they are encouraged to comply.

Below is a copy of the criteria set for framework agencies.

Framework Criteria

The rules for the use of agency staff are complex but have evolved under the framework to ensure a competitive market for NHS trusts. The overall aim of the changes is to provide a better standard of care at a better overall cost.