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New deal to supply agency nurses for NHS

The government has agreed a new deal with private companies to supply agency nurses to the NHS.

It offers agency staff work based on “the same or no less favourable” treatment than if they had been directly recruited, according to the government.

All staff supplied through the new framework will be employed on a set national rate for their role with the ability to apply “London weighting” and extra charges for difficult to recruit posts.

The framework has been drawn up by the Government Procurement Service, which works to negotiate savings for the public sector by buying products and services in bulk.

It believes the deal could result in a 15% saving for NHS trusts compared with 2012 agency rates. If all trusts used the new framework, which is not mandatory, it could save the health service millions of pounds.

Carol Holroyd, head of sourcing and category management at the GPS, said: “The new framework will deliver savings compared to the previous framework and hourly charge rates include all costs so there are no hidden extras.

“By helping reduce the cost of recruiting temporary staff the framework will help the NHS protect front line health services,” she said.

Agency supplier HCL Nursing has called for mandatory use of framework agreements in the NHS, arguing that trusts that negotiate their own deals open “the system to risk through variations in compliance and wild fluctuations in cost”.

HCL chief executive Stephen Burke told Nursing Times: “Agency nurses are often perceived as ‘second best’ by staff and patients alike.

“We are failing to make the link that the majority of these highly qualified, compliant nurses are actually NHS nurses driven by need – not greed – to fill shifts where the NHS is unable,” he said.

As revealed last week by Nursing Times, the use of agency staff is predicted to rise due to reductions in full-time nursing posts and increasing pressure and demands on the health service. According to healthcare analysts Laing and Buisson, overall spending on agency staff has risen 42% since 2008.

It fell by 10% and 16% during 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively, but Laing and Buisson predicted figures for the 2012-13 financial year, which finished at the end of March, would show an increase that was likely to have continued into the present financial year.

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “Framework agreements have a major role to play in the way employers work with agencies.

“Where employers use agency staff there are two important considerations,” he said. “Firstly to continually try and reduce reliance on agency staff in the first place by having evermore efficient and effective recruitment processes – so reducing the length of time temporary staff are required – and secondly by helping reduce the cost of agency staff when they do use them.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • "Government Procurement Service"; "head of sourcing and category management"; "Agency supplier HCL Nursing"; " compliant nurses "; "healthcare analysts Laing and Buisson";
    Dean Royles.

    There you have it. Everything that is wrong with the NHS.

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  • "“We are failing to make the link that the majority of these highly qualified, compliant nurses are actually NHS nurses driven by need – not greed – to fill shifts where the NHS is unable,” he said."

    what on earth is a 'compliant nurse'. I don't know too many highly qualified and competent nurses who fit that category and certainly not me. I heard that is why it so difficult to get a job as an older nurse because employers prefer the young and malleable who tend to do as they are told and don't answer back and then leave after a few months as too much pressure is put on them (or so it was until a few years ago) but has the advantage of financial flexibility for employers rather than having to pay increasingly higher salaries each year (in times past).

    ...could it simply be a printing error in the above sentence and they actually did mean competent and not compliant? I know who I would prefer to work with or looking after me. Isn't compliance rather than competence one of the problems with protocols, guidelines and orders, etc. and sticking rigidly to the rules without using professionally autonomous clinical judgement in certain situations to bend them to the actual needs of the situation and the patient?

    Is it the same as the 'compliant' patient we all expect and welcome and some will write 'non-compliant' on their notes if they don't take a pill or if they disagree with a treatment which is being prescribed? not to mention the further reaching effects this may have on them when their data is handed around and shared with all and sundry?

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  • from above comment/ an afterthought

    furthermore perhaps competence rather than compliance with some hidden rules would go much further in recruiting the right number and calibre of staff actually needed to meet the demands of the job!

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  • Anonymous | 5-Sep-2013 7:23 am
    Anonymous | 5-Sep-2013 7:27 am

    No, they meant 'compliant' not competent.

    Perhaps you should read the numerous comments here from nurses who apparently work through every break and stay behind (for hours, nay days on end), filling in forms, ensuring their patients are properly cared for (because without them, God knows what will happen to the patients); all to earn their place in heaven and, more importantly, to COMPLY with all the demands made on them from non-clinical managers and a succession of governments for whom the borrom line is money, not care.

    The NHS and private industry is full of compliant nurses. That is why nursing is the lowest paid profession with the lowest status and quietest voice of all.

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  • And further to my last comment; the vast majority of nurses are compliant. It has nothing to do with age. If it were, then the supposedly older, highly qualified and competent nurses (who haven't let out a peep, never mind done anything other than exactly what they've been told to do)would have sorted this out years ago and nursing would be a highly regarded, high status profession with decent remuneration. But it it isn't any of those, is it?

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