System guidance for the implementation of framework host management

This guidance sets out NHS England’s intent to introduce requirements for NHS buyers to buy relevant products, services and works, via nationally accredited frameworks and framework hosts, with effect from 1 April 2024.


The NHS spends an estimated £30 billion on third party goods and services each year, with over 80,000 suppliers. Of that £30 billion, an estimated £25 billion is spent via frameworks.

When NHS England launched the Central Commercial Function (CCF) in July 2022, one of its commitments was to review the frameworks used by NHS buyers.

The objective was to make it easier for suppliers to do business with the NHS and to ensure the NHS is getting the best value for money from those frameworks.

This review process, which commenced in August 2023, will enable the simplification of routes to market for NHS buyers by reducing and consolidating the number of frameworks.

It will also enable innovators, many of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to get their products to the front line at speed and at scale.

As part of this process, NHS England have consulted on proposed changes to the NHS Standard Contract for 2024/25.

The amended Standard Contract will require the use of accredited frameworks (or, pending accreditation, frameworks hosted by accredited hosts) by NHS trusts and foundation trusts when purchasing goods, services and works which cover those frameworks from 1 April 2024.

The case for change and benefits for the NHS

The framework accreditation process is expected to deliver benefits to NHS buyers and suppliers and will ensure that NHS Commercial is delivering the best value for money for the British taxpayer.

Benefits to the NHS:

  • Improved consistency across framework standards and specifications.
  • Regulatory and commercial risk will be managed in an optimal way by mandating the national NHS terms and conditions for the procurement of goods, services, and works.
  • Enhanced patient benefits with better access to innovative products and services, by reducing barriers to entry for SMEs and innovators.
  • Reduced procurement time, resource, and cost.
  • Removal of framework duplication.
  • Effective cash release or cost avoidance through more efficient procurements, allowing for additional funds to be re-directed to support patient care.
  • Maximises the NHS commercial leverage at local, regional, and national levels.
  • Enable nationwide commercial guidance and strategy to be created and supported (for example, nationwide category taxonomy enabling structure and organisation across all NHS procurements).
  • Improved tracking of supplier performance, driven by standardisation of frameworks.

Benefits to NHS buyers:

  • Assurance that frameworks adhere to a set of “best in class” standards, by leveraging NHS category expertise and experience so benefits can be shared across the whole NHS system.
  • Enables NHS buyers to spend more time building strong supplier and organisation relationships; this will enhance the quality of service delivery to the NHS buyer.
  • Enables local and regional procurement resources to be focused on other key commercial priorities (such as strategic supplier relationship building, and enhanced organisation relationship building to support better procurement pipelines).
  • Simplifies the process for identifying the best route to market.
  • Realisation of benefits of NHS collective purchasing power.

Benefits to suppliers:

  • Streamlines and demystifies the routes to contract with the NHS, particularly for SMEs.
  • Ensures that bidding for contracts is simpler and more cost effective.
  • Enables aggregation of requirements allowing suppliers to deliver economies of scale at a specialist category level.

What this means for NHS buyers

The accreditation programme

There will be two accreditation processes introduced: one for framework host accreditation and one for framework category accreditation. These will have different process, as outlined below:

Framework host accreditation

The framework host accreditation will begin with self-accreditation across the 18 current framework standards.

In summary, framework hosts that wish to continue to work with the NHS will need to be accredited and adhere to a set of host standards. This will be achieved and monitored via a self-accreditation process, with moderation by NHS representatives.

Framework hosts will need to provide evidence to support their responses, which will go through a ratification and review panel including representatives from across the NHS.

Moderation and audit

These requirements will be part of a moderation process for each framework host accreditation to provide a check and balance for programme quality assurance.

The framework accreditation scheme will hold bi-annual audits, where framework hosts will be required to demonstrate that they continue to meet their accreditation status.

These audit intervals will also provide the opportunity for those framework hosts who have not yet engaged with the programme to submit their self-accreditation assessment and supporting evidence for accreditation.

After the framework host accreditation process has been completed, NHS England will embark on a framework category accreditation process, category-by-category.

Using accredited framework hosts

With effect from the point at which the accredited framework host list is published on the NHS England website, as an NHS buyer when selecting procurement framework(s) as their purchasing route(s) for goods, services, or works, NHS England will expect NHS buyers to only procure through a framework operated by an accredited framework host if the relevant goods, services, or works are available via that route.

List of accredited framework hosts

The host organisations who have been accredited in the first wave of the framework host accreditation process are:

  1. Countess of Chester
  2. Crown Commercial Service
  3. East of England Collaborative Procurement Hub
  4. Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO)
  5. Efficiency East Midlands
  6. HealthTrust Europe
  7. London Procurement Partnership
  8. Lexica
  9. NHS Shared Business Services
  10. NHS Commercial Solutions
  11. NHS Arden and GEM CSU
  12. NHS Supply Chain
  13. NHS Workforce Alliance
  14. NHS England
  15. North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative
  16. North Midlands and Black Country Procurement Group
  17. Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust
  18. Pagabo
  19. QE Facilities
  20. Salisbury Foundation Trust

Framework category accreditation

The Framework category accreditation will not be self-accredited. It will use the same themes as the framework host standards and will be undertaken by the NHS England programme and category experts.

Like the framework host accreditation, there will be a governance panel established to ensure that each framework category accreditation is completed thoroughly and in a fair manner. The governance panel will comprise of category experts from the system.

Use of an accredited framework

  1. Where NHS buyers intend to purchase from a framework, they are expected to use an accredited framework, as and when each framework category is accredited and published on the NHS England website.
  2. If no accredited framework is available and suitable to use, but an accredited framework host has an otherwise suitable framework, then the NHS buyers will be expected to use a framework hosted by an accredited framework host.
  3. Where NHS buyers use a framework that has not yet been accredited, they are expected to follow the exception process (see below).
  4. Where an accredited framework is not selected, NHS buyers must follow the exception process (see below).
  5. Where a framework is not the selected route to market, NHS buyers can continue to run the appropriate compliant procurement procedures set out in Regs 27 – 31 of PCR 2015 (such as open and restricted procedures) (The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (

What’s in scope?

All framework agreements are in scope for this programme and eligible for framework category accreditation, once the framework host is accredited, apart from frameworks pertaining to healthcare services subject to the provider selection regime (PSR).

This includes framework categories that have been previously reviewed and/or endorsed by various NHS England accreditation programmes.

This will also ensure that any previously endorsed frameworks meet the framework accreditation standards, such as Digital procurement recommendations and the Agency recommendations.

Framework agreements include those in relation to the ‘core list’ programme, which was included in the Strategic framework for NHS Commercial.

Frameworks established by the Commercial Medicines Unit (CMU) are not in scope for the current phase of the programme. However, NHS England is working to ensure they will be aligned to equivalent standards in due course.

If a framework host does not receive an accredited green status, their framework agreements are not eligible for framework category accreditation.

Details of accredited frameworks, accredited framework hosts and the accreditation framework and host standards will be published on the NHS England website (or other appropriate public website) as and when the programme completes each category-by-category framework review.

For any frameworks that are not accredited, NHS England expects active use of those frameworks to cease, as NHS buyers will be expected to justify purchasing from non-accredited frameworks.

Partnerships, alliances, and joint ventures created for the purpose of purchasing in-scope products and services are in scope for this programme, as defined by the programme description of ‘host’ or ‘framework host’ (see glossary below).

It is in the interest of partnerships and alliances to be part of the framework host accreditation and framework category accreditation programme, and to be included on the list of accredited hosts.

Exceptions and transition processes

The accreditation programme will have an exceptions process and a transition process.

This is to ensure continuity of supply and service for NHS buyers while the accreditation process is completed, and to provide a period during which hosts can improve their standards as required.

Exceptions process

In the implementation period from April 2024 to March 2025 while the accreditations of all hosts and frameworks are being completed, NHS buyers should notify NHS England via if they use a framework or a framework host that has not been accredited by NHS England.

This process of notification will help NHS England to further understand framework use across the system and support criteria development for the category prioritisation.

From April 2024 (by which time we expect to have completed the framework accreditation process), where an NHS buyer uses a framework host which has not been accredited, they are expected to submit to NHS England a justification and explanation as to why they have chosen to use a non-accredited framework host via

Transition process

For existing frameworks or call-offs under those agreements: all current frameworks will continue to run to their full term, including any extensions where appropriately exercised (as will current call-off contracts under those frameworks).

When a contract needs to be renewed, NHS buyers will be expected to renew contracts using accredited framework hosts and accredited frameworks (where applicable and available).

Where hosts (accredited or not) have existing contractual obligations to NHS buyers or suppliers, these are not affected by the accreditation process and hosts must continue to fulfil any existing obligations.


Accreditation: The completion of the process described for accredited frameworks or accredited hosts.

Accredited framework: A framework which has successfully completed the NHS England Framework Accreditation Scheme; has been awarded green status by the accreditation programme (or by NHS England); and has been included in the list of accredited frameworks published on the NHS England website (or other appropriate public website).

Accredited host: A host which has successfully completed the NHS England host accreditation process; has been awarded green status by the accreditation programme (or by NHS England); and has been included in the list of accredited hosts on the NHS England website (or other appropriate public website).

Framework agreements or frameworks: Defined for the purposes of this guidance to include:

  • framework agreements (as defined by Reg 33 (2) of PCR 2015), DPS (as per Reg 34 of PCR 2015)
  • frameworks (as per Chapter 4 of the 2023 Procurement Act)
  • dynamic markets (as defined in section 34 (8) of the 2023 Procurement Act)
  • open frameworks (as defined under section 49 of the 2023 Procurement Act).

For the purposes of this guidance, the term ‘framework’ also includes catalogues and any current or future commercial vehicle, or element of the commercial infrastructure, that facilitates contract call-off.

Framework hosts (also referred to as hosts): Defined for the purposes of this guidance as the organisations which establish a framework, in addition to owning/and promoting the framework; and have launched, concluded and then managed the framework tender process.

They also receive various benefits from those frameworks which could include activity-based incomes, levy, or management fees from suppliers on the framework.

For the purposes of this programme of work, host organisations can be a public or private sector organisation.

NHS England must endorse any new hosts who meet our definition and provide, endorse, establish framework agreements (as defined by the glossary) predominantly to the NHS or if an NHS body wishes to act as a sponsor for any new host.

NHS buyers: Defined for the purposes of this guidance as any NHS organisation which holds an NHS standard contract, (NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts), or commissions services delivered under an NHS standard contract (including integrated care boards and NHS England).

Suppliers: Organisations which supply goods, services, or works to the NHS.

Get in touch

NHS buyers, hosts and other interested parties should email the NHS England Commercial Efficiencies Frameworks mailbox for further information or with any additional questions:

Further information is also available on the CCF Best Practice Hub via Future NHS, please email for support with access. Please note that this is only accessible to NHS employees.

Publication reference: PRN00822