Agency application process

Information on the application process for recruitment agencies to be placed on the list, how the list is monitored and the appeals procedure.

26 March 2021

On this page you will find information on the application process for recruitment agencies to be placed on the list, how the list is monitored and the appeals procedure.

Application procedure

Recruitment agencies wishing to apply to be placed on the code of practice list of agencies for international recruitment are required to complete an online application form.

The application form confirms:

  • the agency's commitment to fully adhere to the code of practice
  • the business practice of the agency
  • a declaration of all associated business activities relating to the commercial recruitment of healthcare professionals.

If, after examination of the application and resolution of any queries, an agency is not successful in being placed on the list, they will be advised of the reason in writing via email. The agency must wait three months before it can re-apply and must be able to demonstrate that it has changed its business practice in order to be placed on the list.

How the list of agencies is monitored

The procedure for monitoring agencies for their adherence to the principles of the code is as follows:

  • On a biennial basis we will write to all agencies via email (giving them two weeks to respond) asking them to:
    • check that their contact details are correct
    • confirm their compliance with the principles of the code
    • supply two referees from the NHS to confirm that they use the agency and that the agency complies with the code.
  • If an agency does not answer the first letter within two weeks, they will receive a second letter asking for the same information and will have a further two weeks to respond.
  • If the agency does not reply to the second letter, a third and final letter will be sent, requesting the same information and they will be given a further two weeks to reply.

If we do not receive a reply to the final letter by the specified period this may result in the agency being removed from the list. If removed, an agency will only be allowed to re-apply after a period of three months and will need to demonstrate that they will remain fully compliant with the code and the operating practice.

NHS organisations are encouraged to make a note of this procedure and ensure that their agency complies with it when they receive their initial letter.

Removal from the list

A recruitment agency will be removed from the list if, following a thorough investigation, it is found to be in breach of the principles of the code. Each case will be investigated on an individual basis. The investigation process is clearly outlined in Annex C of the code of practice and will be carried out fairly and in a timely manner.

Appeal procedure

Recruitment agencies that are removed from the code of practice list can lodge an appeal against the decision to NHS Employers. All appeals must be made in writing and the agency must set out the grounds for their appeal, with any written evidence to support their case. The appeal process can be found in Annex C of the code of practice.

The purpose of the appeal procedure is to review the process and reason for the decision to remove an agency from the list when the agency believes the process was improperly administered or the decision was unjustified. In most circumstances, the agency would have been involved in the investigation about their removal from the list, for example, when NHS Employers needs to clarify details of events or the agency's operating procedures. Agencies are always given the opportunity to comment on the information and provide an explanation of their actions.

Action by appeals panel

If an agency appeals against removal from the list, a formal appeals panel will meet to consider the appeal. The panel includes:

  • a senior manager from NHS Employers who has not been involved in the original investigation and decision
  • a member of the NHS Employers Policy Board
  • a representative from the Department of Health and Social Care
  • a representative from the appropriate devolved administration in the case of appeals by agencies in that country.

The appeals process should be completed within six weeks of receiving the written appeal unless there are circumstances that warrant an extension. In these circumstances, the appeals panel should inform the organisation in writing of the reasons, and where possible, the timescale of the delay.

The panel members will consider the appeal submission together with the original papers supplied by the NHS Employers' investigation team. Panel members can ask for additional information or clarification from either the agency or the NHS Employers' investigation team. Panel members do not have to consider the appeal together in a formal face-to-face meeting but should meet together if requested by one of the panel members.

Consideration should be given to the following:

  • whether the primary investigators clearly demonstrated that a breach of the code of practice has taken place - the evidence should support this - and the decision to remove the agency from the list is proportionate
  • whether there is any possibility that the information on which the original decision was based is incorrect
  • whether the organisation has been given an opportunity to respond and provide an explanation of their actions
  • whether the organisation disproved the evidence or raised serious doubt about its validity
  • whether the process has been handled properly by NHS Employers.

The panel will make a majority decision whether to uphold or reject the appeal. It may also make other specific recommendations. When the review is completed, the agency will be notified of the outcome in writing by NHS Employers.

If the appeal is upheld, the agency will be put back on the list and NHS trusts will be notified.

Monthly spot checks

NHS Employers carries out random monthly spot checks on agencies. At least 30 agencies are selected randomly and their websites are checked to ensure that they are following the rules set out by the Code. Agencies are allowed and encouraged to stipulate that they are signed up to the UK Code of Practice and adhere to the principles of ethical recruitment – and they may wish to signpost to our website.

Use of the NHS Employers logo

NHS Employers logo is protected and commercial recruitment agencies who are successfully placed on the list of agencies that adhere to the code are not allowed to display the logo on their business materials, such as documents and websites. This is because the process of signing up to the code is primarily based on the agency self-declaring that they have ethical practices, our role is to manage the list of agencies who have signed up to the code but not to approve them as suppliers.

Agencies are also reminded that inclusion on the list does not imply that they belong to a group that are either preferred suppliers or recommended by the Department of Health and Social Care or this organisation. It also does not guarantee they will be engaged by NHS organisations to recruit on their behalf.