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08.04.16

High agency demand means NHS still forced to make ‘short-term decisions’

Demand for temporary staff was higher in healthcare than any other sector in March 2016 despite government efforts to limit NHS spending on agency staff.

The latest figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation show that nursing, medical and care had the highest rate of temporary vacancies out of nine sectors, with a score on the Job Vacancies Index of 63.6.

In contrast, the sector was ranked fourth in demand for permanent staff, with a 60.3 score.

Stuart Abrahams, policy advisor at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “There are times when staff are needed to cover at short notice, but the current over-reliance on agency staff in the NHS is not sustainable.

“The over-reliance on short-term staffing in the NHS is a long-term problem and won’t be fixed overnight.

“What these figures show is that NHS trusts are making the right pragmatic decisions when prioritising patient safety.

“When patients need nurses, nurses should be available but the big concern is that when providers are under significant financial pressure, short-term decisions increasingly become the only ones the NHS is able to make.”

The latest Monitor figures show that 179 out of 240 NHS providers are in deficit.

NHS staffing shortages mean its use of agency staff is increasing, prompting the government to try to limit spending by introducing hourly pay caps for agency staff.

However, healthcare vacancy rates have decreased overall compared to the vacancy scores this time last year, which were 66.5 for temporary staff and 66.3 for permanent staff.

NHS Professionals are trying to promote trust staff banks as an alternative to agencies, urging nurses to join them on a part-time basis.

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