A national initiative is underway to try and ensure agency nurses used by the NHS in England are high quality and up to the job.
Organisers say the scheme should give nurses more confidence in the credentials of agency colleagues and help keep the costs of hiring temporary staff in check.
“This is about making sure people turning up to do agency shifts are fit and proper people”
The project – called the National Collaborative Framework for the Supply of Nursing and Nursing Related Temporary Staff – was launched last month.
It is being led by the London Procurement Partnership (LPP), in collaboration with three other procurement bodies – NHS Commercial Solutions, NHS North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative, and the East of England NHS Collaborative Procurement Hub.
Project lead Richard Humble, from LPP, said: “This is about making sure people turning up to do agency shifts are fit and proper people, able to carry out the tasks expected of them.”
London has had a similar framework in place for four years, which is used by all trusts in the capital and accounts for 90% of spending on agency nurses.
The new framework is divided into five sections covering four regions of England and an overarching one for international agency recruitment.
Agencies that succeed in getting on the framework’s lists are checked to ensure they vet workers properly. Agencies also undergo financial checks and are re-visited on an annual basis.
“Any agency worker who turns up to do a shift has been subject to exactly the same level of compliance checks as a substantive member of staff,” said Mr Humble. The structure also helped ensure “consistent and competitive pay rates”, he added.
At present 73 agencies are listed on the framework for London, 71 in the East of England/Midlands, 59 in the north, 49 in the south, and 20 as international.
Mr Humble admitted agency use had “grown hugely” in the capital over the past four years, but stressed the ultimate aim was for trusts to cut down on use of agency staff.
“We’re very clear this framework is only part of the solution and one of the things trusts need to do is look at demand management and actually reduce their use of agency workers,” he said.
The framework will operate for two years initially, with the option to extend it to four.
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