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New initiative to ensure agency nurses are 'fit and proper'

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”

Richard Humble

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.


Richard Humble

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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Readers' comments (16)

  • Hospitals need to have good, strong Nurse Bank structure, to reduce the need for Agency nurses.
    We are always grateful though for a good Agency nurse when a Bank nurse cannot be found.
    Our hospital try to crack down on sickness levels by calling in nurses to explain their sickness, even when there is Doctor's sick certificate. They create fear and guilt for going off sick.
    I know that there are a few occasions when staff might take advantage, but generally nurses call in sick when they are ill or feel that they will not be able to cope in a safe professional way.
    The time is ripe for nurses to be treated with some trust, kindness and be listened to.
    Stress also is a major problem and stress manifest itself into real physical symptoms.
    The ground work need to be done to decrease the dependancy on Agency Nurses. When the work enviornment is a happy place those same Agency nurses will want to join us.

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  • Whats new about this? There have been goverment frameworks in place across the UK for the past few years, this story smacks of LPP trying to drum up support for their commercial framework.

    Also it would be very intresting to know how many agency nurses actually have full time substantive NHS posts?

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  • It's unfair the way we view agency staff. Lack of insight into the screening process of these workers perhaps contribute to this perception.
    A registered practitioner in any form or shape deserves to be given the respect commensurate with the role.
    This partnership appears unrealistic of the shortage of personnel within the NHS and the ill-treatment meted to staff.

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  • I work for an agency as their clinical lead. The screening which are staff go through is as thorough as any recruitment for health care worker, 5 year employment history,references from previous employers and obviously up to date DBS's
    . We ensure all our nurses are well trained and able to do their job. Working both in the NHS and on agency I have a good understanding of what it is like being on both sides of the fence, I will say the clinicians I lead are professional skilled staff fully aware of their accountability.

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  • Quite honestly it's the non-agency nurses that aren't fit for purpose!!! Some are bloody useless and downright dangerous and yes I have been whistleblowing until I'm blue in tje face!!

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  • quite a number in the NHS need to be tested to verify whether they are 'fit and proper'! how degrading and insulting to suggest that fellow human beings, and especially nurses, are not 'proper'!

    reminds me of a friend who always used to distinguish good from bad workman jokingly referring to a job well done as one done by a 'proper man'!

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  • to ensure "agency nurses are fit and proper" is an insult, they are accountable as any "non agency " nurse, nurses are damned if they do, damned if they don't, no wonder the nhs has difficulty recruiting

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  • As a Bank Nurse myself, I have discovered that when it comes to training on new equipment I am invisible, the ward staff go off to do their training leaving me on the ward holding the fort, when they have finished, time and time again I have been told there is not enough time to go through it again. Bank nurses are not considered as much of a priority as Substantive workers, we do our best often under difficult circumstances. A level playing field is all I ask. I want to learn, to keep up to date, to be as usefull and as effective as permanent staff, so PLEASE the next time there is a training session on the ward try to make sure you include ALL staff, Many Thanks in advance!

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  • sue francis | 3-Jun-2014 6:17 pm

    from commentator above yours

    agreed. they are the same as any other but just happen to have a different employer!

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  • When did you ever hear of an agency nurse suspended on full pay? one bad move and they are dispensed with as opposed to lousy permanent nurses.

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  • Agency nurses as someone imply are just as professional as any nurse or sometimes better.
    They are well aware of their accountability.
    People really do forget that nurses are professionals. Nusres are degraded so much and told how to do their own jobs all the time, that some may even forget that they are the masters of their own doings.
    Respect nurses and give them some credibility,and for those who fail to be professional then of course there is the over paid NMC that is ripping off from our pay packet to sort them out.

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  • ... and don't forget any nurse may find themselves as an agency nurse at any time and grateful for this option. think before you judge them on all but obviously blatantly bad practice which can also occur among nurses in any sector and not because they happen work for an agency!

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  • “This is about making sure people turning up to do agency shifts are fit and proper people”

    Richard Humble

    What is Richard Humble suggesting that so far the NHS has been paying for services that provide nurses who are not fit and proper persons....isn't this a scandalous waste of public money? Why have the frameworks allowed this to happen? The frameworks are theirs they have a duty to enforce.

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  • I worked as an agency nurse for about 5 years due to my family circumstances.

    It's obvious that people expect little from agency staff and worry about their competencies, etc.

    I was greeted with amazement when I made sure I understood to crash procedures and where the kit was on my first day in one major London hospital. I was in anaesthetics & recovery, so imagine anyone NOT asking!

    They were already pleased that English was my first language and that I'd actually turned up on time, so at this point I was picking up messages that they'd had some past difficulties.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Jun-2014 1:29 pm

    I should imagine anybody who did not do as you did would look a complete fool, apart from the serious potential damage to patients, if they needed emergency equipment and did not know where to find it!
    they certainly would not be asked to return.

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  • The National Frameworks have been in place for years. The frameworks locally and nationally have failed because as they squeeze the price that can be paid for Agency Nursing they force Trusts to move outside of the Framework to get staff who will not work at the wage price set by the Framework. It is a failing system that has failed to take into account the situation in the South in regards to falling Nurse numbers and is a blatant attempt to beat Nursing wages down in the face of reduced numbers and increased demand. In any other walk of life this situation would be met by pay hikes - with Nurses, subterfuge and regulation are used to try and force the issue! The use of Frameworks causes the dangerous practise of undermanning shifts because managers cannot operate outside of the framework 'list' of acceptable agencies. The talk of regulation is actually an excuse to force pricing and many of the Agencies on the list can only meet the price , not the regulation and so get in whilst more expensive but regulatory agencies are kept out. It is a farce and a dangerous one at that- it is the patient that suffers.
    Strange that a magazine that purports to support Nurses would not have seen through yet another wage squashing initiative!

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