Reducing agency spend

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10 / 2 / 2015 10:00 AM

Employers use 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, the use of agency staff can be a significant cost to employers.  A strategic approach is needed in order to develop a more flexible and responsive workforce and to avoid inappropriate responses to cost pressures.


The information on this page provides examples of how temporary staffing has been managed in NHS organisations and what a successful long-term strategy, linked to effective workforce planning, might look like. We have information on the use of e-rostering to help plan your workforce and reduce the need for temporary staff, five high impact actions which trusts may want to implement as well 'how to guides' on different aspects of agency usage.

Key points

  • 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.

What employers need to do:

  • Collect data and management information to build the foundation for a tailored flexible workforce strategy.
  • Research and implement relevant software packages to help manage temporary staffing and rostering.
  • 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.

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