Start with identifying your root cause of agency usage. Undertake some analysis to find out why people are booking agency staff, it could be that the answer lies with addressing these issues rather than anything else. View the top tips webpage
Employers have used agency staff in a range of situations as a way to quickly fill difficult gaps and to ensure that services continue to be delivered.
However, a review of agency costs over recent years shows a marked increase: total agency spend within the NHS grew by 57 per cent to £1.9 billion from 2007/08 to 2008/09.
The increase affected all staff groups, although the administrative and clerical staff group saw particularly prominent growth. Growth was also notable for scientific, therapeutic, technical, medical and dental staff.
The Agency Workers Regulations (2010) have been in force since October 2011. These grant agency workers the same working and employment conditions as substantive employees. NHS Employers is currently looking at the implications that this has had on the costs of agency and temporary workers and will publish the findings shortly. Keep an eye on our latest news page for further details.
A strategic approach is needed in order to develop a more flexible and responsive workforce and to avoid inappropriate responses to cost pressures.
Current financial pressures and the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) agenda provide an opportunity for organisations to reflect on how temporary staffing has been managed in the past and what a successful long-term strategy, linked to effective workforce planning, might look like.
- Trust directors must understand their workforce needs in order to plan effectively and develop a workforce strategy that will deliver savings in the long term.
- A planned, flexible mix of substantive and temporary staff can deliver cost savings and a high quality patient experience.
- Knowing the different financial and safety costs of different types of temporary staff will help Trusts to make effective decisions about their flexible workforce.
- Cultural change, supported by senior leaders, will be needed to implement a robust flexible workforce strategy.
- You will find further guidance and an action checklist to help you plan and implement your flexible workforce strategy under the Tools, resources and good practice section.
The following summarises what employers need to do:
- Collect data and management information to build the foundation for a tailored flexible workforce strategy.
- Research an implement relevant software packages to help manage temporary staffing and rostering; see tools, resources and good practice.
- Examine ways to use substantive staff more flexibly through careful workforce analysis – consider piloting your ideas with one department of staff group first.
- Set up a staff bank or staff pool if none exist or consider extending existing bank arrangements to other staff groups.
- Review procurement of agency staff to determine which staff are not being supplied under a framework or local agreement and how to make better use of agencies.
- Review recruitment time-to-hire data and induction practices to reduce the demand for temporary staff.
- Ensure that policy and practice are in place to improve the health and well being of NHS staff.
- Explore the possible adoption of the staff skills passport to improve flexibility and deployment – consider the possibility of sharing Trust specific bank staff across organisations.
- Re-examine internal controls and governance to improve agency authorisation and sign-off procedures, to the extent that board-level review is in place.
- Involve HR and internal communications teams to implement organisational change and ensure staff engagement.