A dedicated team will work closely with health boards to try and address increasing levels of spending on temporary staff, especially those from agencies, the Scottish government has announced.
It forms part of a new programme to help NHS boards develop and implement nationally agreed best practice to manage the use of temporary agency staff. It is a joint initiative between the Scottish government and NHS National Services Scotland.
“All organisations have a need to recruit staff on a temporary basis… but in the NHS it is important that we so this as efficiently as possible”
Central to the initiative is a dedicated group, called the “managed staffing network” team, which will work with boards to develop a “clear understanding of their requirements”, said the Scottish government.
There would also be best practice guidance and support tools to manage bank and agency spend, as well as workforce planning in general, it added.
The initiative – titled the Nationally Co-ordinated Programme for the Effective Management of Temporary Medical Staffing Appointments – follows a recent report on NHS finances from Audit Scotland.
The report, published in October, said that in 2014-15, the NHS in Scotland spent £146m on nursing and midwifery bank and agency staff, a real-terms increase of 12% from 2013-14.
The report added that using agency nursing and midwifery staff cost the NHS almost three times more than using bank staff.
In 2014-15, the average hourly cost of using agency nursing and midwifery staff increased by 9% to £42.97 from £39.26 in 2013-14. In comparison, in 2014-15, NHS bank staff for nursing and midwifery was £15.62 an hour, a decrease of just under 1%.
The cost of agency staff was particularly difficult for more rural boards where the average agency hourly rate exceeds the Scotland average, noted the report.
It said NHS Shetland (£84.05), NHS Orkney (£58.98) and NHS Dumfries and Galloway (£57.44) paid the highest rate per hour for agency staff.
Announcing the new programme to drive down agency spending, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: “We know that we need to address the complex issues which influence the recruitment and retention of Scotland’s NHS workforce.
“We are committed to ensuring that we continue to strive for the best possible quality and value for NHS Scotland from all our suppliers, and this new team is another asset to help us achieve this,” she said.
“We are working closely with boards across Scotland to implement a range of measures to support the recruitment and retention of staff,” she added, while noting that agency nurse spending was 13% lower now than it was in 2007.
Jim Miller, director for procurement commissioning and facilities at NHS National Services Scotland, who are leading the scheme, said: “National guidance already exists. This scheme should support NHS Boards to deliver on that guidance, so that every part of Scotland makes the best use of their resources.”
The Scottish plan follows the introduction in England of a series of national caps on trust spending and hourly pay rates for agency staff, as ministers seek to tackle what they view as runaway spending on expensive temporary workers.
The Nationally Co-ordinated Programme for the Effective Management of Temporary Medical Staffing Appointments includes:
- National co-ordination of staff banks to facilitate the movement of temporary workers between NHS boards by agreement. The group will support NHS boards with the practicalities of implementation and by agreeing the solutions and approaches to HR and terms and conditions issues
- A dedicated team to work at national and local levels to join up with other programmes relating to workforce management and e-rostering. Initial funding for the team will be provided by NSS
- Additional resource to work with NHS boards to develop local strategies and interventions aimed at system improvements for the use of temporary agency workers