Caps on the hourly rate NHS trusts can pay agency staff come into effect today, as part of a government clampdown on what is viewed by ministers as runaway spending on expensive agencies.
The caps also follow the recent introduction of annual restrictions on how much trusts can spend overall on nurses from temporary staffing agencies.
From today, hourly rates for all agency staff in the NHS, including clinical and non clinical roles, will be limited with a view to bringing them down to 55% above permanent staff pay rates by April 2016.
However, following feedback from a consultation on the cap plans, the hourly rates restriction will not apply to bank staff.
In the case of band 5 workers, staff will have pay capped at £28.80 per hour during the day from today, falling to £22.32 per hour by April 2016.
Band 6 staff will have pay capped at £35.65 per hour during the day from today, falling to £27.63 per hour by April 2016.
Trusts will be expected to secure lower rates where possible, but the hourly rates are based on the 2015-16 pay scales, according to regulators Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority, which published the rates.
Agency rules will not risk patient safety, says Ruth May
Meanwhile, from 1 October, trusts have been required to comply with ceilings for agency nurse spend, also set by Monitor and the TDA.
The annual targets apply to all NHS trusts and foundation trusts, but vary according to the amount each health service organisation is currently spending with agencies. They will not apply to healthcare assistants.
In addition, from 19 October, trusts have been banned from securing nursing staff – including HCAs – from agencies that are not on approved “framework agreements”.
Last month, Monitor’s senior nursing advisor Ruth May reassured trust chief nurses that the new agency rules could be breached on the grounds of patient safety, following concerns they could leave wards understaffed.
Speaking at Nursing Times’ inaugural Directors’ Congress, she told delegates she was “confident” the new controls would “increase trust bargaining power and they should enable trusts to manage their workforce in a more sustainable way”.