latest health care news

21.07.17

Mackey calls on trusts to cull ‘unsustainable’ agency staff spending

Providers have this week been urged to up their efforts to reduce agency spending which has reportedly reached an “unsustainable” level.

Writing to directors and leaders earlier this week, CEO of NHS Improvement Jim Mackey said that though “significant inroads” had been made on reducing spending on agency staff, trusts needed to “double” their efforts in lowering spend in this area.

Mackey said that trusts needed to go further in applying the mechanisms that had brought around £700m worth of savings in agency staff last year and £1bn since October 2015, including keeping to price caps and not going to off-framework agencies.

He also added that organisations needed to ensure they had a staff bank in place across all staff groups, and that these groups worked collaboratively and collectively across each health system, so that the benefits of this move can be reinvested into patient care.

“Despite this progress, I’m sure that we all recognise that spending on agency staff is still at an unsustainable level, both from a quality and economic viewpoint, and much is still to be done to reduce spend to a more normal level,” Mackey wrote.

“One of the keys to reducing agency spend further in 2017-18 is to go further in applying the mechanisms that have brought savings in the last year. There are still far too many price cap breaches and use of off-framework agencies.

“The sector therefore needs to redouble its efforts in applying price caps and using approved frameworks to procure agency staff, with the only exception to this approach being where there is an identified safety risk.”

He added that in addition the controls introduced on very senior management, CEO sign off of shifts over £120 per hour plus reporting and taking action on the top rates paid for agency staff have all had a positive impact in 2016-17.

Mackey stated that mangers needed to get to grips with agency shifts costing more than £120 an hour, although progress on rostering, job planning and faster turnaround on vacancies was progressing. However, he argued there is still further to go in ensuring consistency of application and “many trusts” are yet to realise the full potential of what can be achieved in these areas.

The outgoing NHSI CEO added that each organisation needs to ensure that it has a staff bank in place across all staff groups, and also that these ork collaboratively and collectively across each health system.

“We are keen that the sector reaps the benefit of this move in terms of quality and the savings released to reinvest back into patient care,” he said.

“I appreciate your continued support in this area and hope that we will all continue to realise the wide benefits of reducing the sector’s reliance on agency and locum staff.”

Today’s news also follows NHSI pausing plans to stop full-time staff taking additional agency work back in April.

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