Sourcing temporary staff externally

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Nurses going over notes

04 / 8 / 2016 Midnight

There will be occasions where trusts will need to source temporary staff from external recruitment and employment agencies. Traditionally, these staff have simply been sourced by either a service level agreement (SLA) or a contract with either one or a number of external businesses. There are however a variety of ways in which these arrangements work and the most common approaches are outlined below.

When using an external organisation to procure a temporary member of staff, one of the first decisions a trust will make is whether to use a recruitment business model or an employment business model.

Normally most temporary staff in the NHS are sourced using an employment business model. Essentially this means that the worker is employed by the agency (known as the employment business) and the trust will pay the agency for the employee’s services.

However, there are options available to trusts using a recruitment business approach. Using this model, a trust in effect pays a third party to find an employee on their behalf. Once a suitable candidate is found, they start working for the trust and become a trust employee. This model is often used when there is a longer vacancy to fill (such as covering for a gap in a junior doctor rotation).

There are potential risks and benefits to each approach which are outlined in detail later in this guide. When using an employment business model there is a perceived increase in flexibility for the trust and the re-assurance that should things not work out an assignment can be terminated relatively quickly and easily. The NHS Improvement agency rules include price caps and wage caps on how much trusts can pay agency workers per hour.

When using a recruitment business approach, the trust may be able to benefit from having a greater say in which employee is provided and for longer term assignments this may work out more cost effective. However, the trust must also consider the potential liabilities associated with directly employing temporary workers (such as pension, redundancy and continuous service) and the inherent lack of flexibility.

Consistent across all models outlined below is that the trust should be clear with any external organisation which framework agreement they are using (as many agencies are included on more than one framework) and the terms associated with this. This should form the basis of any contract or service level agreement (SLA).

Framework agreements

To assist NHS trusts in achieving the best value for money, as well as offering assurances on the quality of temporary staff provided, a number of framework agreements have been developed. The NHS Improvement agency rules include a list of approved frameworks that trusts must use when procuring agency staff.

Next webpage: Employment business models

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