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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