NHS to clamp down on staffing agencies ‘ripping off’ NHS – Stevens

NHS England boss Simon Stevens has said the health service plans to “clamp down” on some of the staffing agencies ripping off the NHS. 

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Stevens admitted that there had been overspending on contract staff, but added “what we've got to do is convert that [agency] spending into good, paying permanent jobs”. 

In the last few weeks, Monitor revealed that agency pay to contract staff at the end of the financial year amounted to £1.77bn, significantly higher than the £766m planned for the period. It was also up on the 2014 figure of £1.37bn. 

The NHS Trust Development Authority also revealed that the increase in the level of agency and contract spend is contributing to the decline in the sector’s financial position. For instance, in 2014-15 trusts spent £1.54bn collectively on agency staff, double the amount planned (£708m). It was also significantly higher than the 2013-14 figure of £1.15bn. 

Discussing the escalating agency staff costs, Stevens said: “We’ve got to ensure that NHS hospitals are offering employment for these nurses who are currently working in these temporary agencies. But also, we will have to clamp down on these staffing agencies who frankly are ripping off the NHS.” 

NHS England told NHE that it could offer no further detail on what Stevens had in mind when he suggested a “clamp down”. 

Responding to the news, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said poor workforce planning coupled with a short-sighted failure to invest sensibly was never going to be in the NHS’ best interests. 

“Over-reliance on agency staff is bad for continuity of care, and that is bad for patients,” he said. “Nursing staff are the backbone of the NHS and it is vital that we repair the supply line and ensure that we have new nurses entering the profession. 

“There should also be concerted efforts to introduce flexible, family friendly working policies so as to retain our existing skilled and experienced workforce.”

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Linda   01/06/2015 at 16:01

This is basic good house keeping: a proper locum spec at agreed price is not rocket science. Too many people too divorced from cost implications of their actions and opting for short term management at expense of long term planning. The political parties have a lot to answer for - difficult to plan if you do not know where the £ coming from; if it is coming at all.

Raj   01/06/2015 at 16:19

This needs urgent attention. For vast sums the trusts are employing much inferior doctors at the hours of their choosing. Some of the doctors with no proper training jobs just get into this country and jump on the locum bandwagon to act as medical mercenaries. Some of the agency middle grades ,for 9-5 jobs , with no on calls are earning upto double the sums of their substantial consultants. If these people were not employed then they would toe the line and become regular doctors. All the trusts have to combine to boot out the evil!

Jen   01/06/2015 at 16:43

They have to address why nurses are working for agencies in the first place. I have worked for the NHS since 1982. Things are SO different now. More staff are joining agencies to earn extra money that you cannot earn working for NHSP (the NHS bank nursing agency). This does not even pay us the normal pay we are on. I am on top Band 5 pay, the extra hours I work for NHSP pays middle Band 5. Give us some incentive to do extra shifts for the NHS and experienced nurses would do them. The NHS pays for Agency nurses when a shift cannot be filled by NHSP staff. The Government don't tell the public this, they just slam agencies who are prepared to pay us for years of experience and care. Give us reasons why we should not join.

Mell   02/06/2015 at 10:00

A combination of factors have led to this situation including market forces, agenda for change pay scales and management culture. Current HR processes do not allow quick appointment of staff so there will always be a case for agency staff to fill the gap in the interim. The NHS just needs to make sure that agencies are being used for the right reasons. It is not a long term or a cost effective solution.

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