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23.09.15

Agency overspend increased further despite providers’ plans, says Stevens

NHS England boss Simon Stevens says there must be much more rigorous, collective and immediate employer action to cap agency rates and convert this spending into flexible permanent jobs. 

In his report to the organisation’s board this week, Stevens said that the “further increase in providers’ temporary overspending in Q1 – at precisely the time when they planned the opposite” – signals the need for this change. 

Earlier this month it was announced that an annual ceiling for total agency spend for each trust between 2015-16 and 2018-19 is being introduced under new rules published by Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority (NHS TDA). 

The Royal College of Nursing told NHE that the new rules to cap NHS spending on agency nurses must “not just be seen as a cost-cutting exercise” and patient safety must remain the “utmost priority”. 

The annual ceiling move comes after it was revealed earlier this year that the collective amount of money spent on agency staffing has increased to around £3.3bn per year

An NHE investigation also found that nearly a fifth of NHS trusts have spent more than a tenth of their total staff budget on agency and two-thirds of trusts spent at least double their agency forecast

Alongside the call for tackling agency spend, Stevens said: “Complementary action is also needed by government in respect of international recruitment and new career ladders between care assistant and graduate nursing roles. These are expected shortly.” 

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