A centrally procured “workforce management system” is set to be made available to NHS organisations as part of a government tendering exercise worth up to £1bn, it has emerged.
The Cabinet Office has issued an information notice calling for expressions of interest in a potential deal to deliver a system, which could be rolled out to other parts of the public sector.
It will include software to deliver e-rostering and systems to either fully or partially manage bank staff to help providers reduce costs. The tender also covers “workforce management support services”, thought to include human resources systems.
Ultimately the government will seek to put in place what is called a “framework agreement” with either one or a number of private companies to deliver the project, with a contract value of £200m-£1bn.
This would allow NHS organisations to sign deals with the provider without having to undertake their own procurement procedures.
However a senior acute trust finance director told HSJ that while a framework agreement could be beneficial to the NHS as a whole, it could mean that trusts lost out on the opportunity to negotiate a price that recognised their unique needs.
The source said: “A framework agreement does not oblige you to use the contract but it does mean you don’t have to go out to tender yourself, that is the advantage. The disadvantage is that because you are not specific in the volume of work under a framework agreement, you almost certainly won’t get the best price.”
Following the Francis and Keogh reports, providers have increased their full-time establishment numbers for nurses, leading many to recruit more substantive staff, as well as spending more on agency staff to plug gaps.
Successful implementation of the system could help the NHS achieve a target of reducing its £2.4bn annual bill for temporary staff by a quarter by the end of 2016, which was set by health minister Dan Poulter in August. He launched a report called Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care, which said the NHS could save £1.5bn a year if it improved procurement.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said the system would “provide customers with end to end resource planning”.
He said: “We are still in the planning stages and engaging with customers and the market for feedback to help shape the procurement and ensure it meets customer needs, while delivering the best value for money for the taxpayer.”
More details are expected to be released when a full tender is published in the Official Journal of the European Union this summer.