Last minute requests for temporary hospital workers are predicted to increase, despite the extra pressure it places on ward staff.
Trusts sometimes delay requests for bank and agency staff until they are certain they will otherwise be understaffed in an attempt to avoid unnecessary spending. This practice can result in workforce shortages, because it is often impossible for agencies to provide staff with just 24 hours’ notice.
Last minute requests already account for 22% of all requests made to NHS Professionals, which runs the health service’s in-house bank and provides staff to 80 trusts
But a new report from NHS Professionals said it anticipated the proportion of requests made at the last minute to increase. The organisation warned the trend would lead to a continued reliance on “expensive” agencies, which are more likely to have available staff.
In addition, the report said there had been an “unexpected increase” in overall demand for temporary workers between July and September 2011. Overall demand is 2.5% higher than in September 2010.
NHS Professionals chief executive Stephen Dangerfield said: “Until recently, we have observed a year on year downward trend in shift demand, but data from the last quarter show a significant reversal, particularly in acute trusts.
“It’s clear that with trusts focusing on efficiency, short-notice shift demand is increasingly a fact of life,” he added.
The data is based on requests for staff in Agenda for Change bands 2 to 6 among a statistically representative sample of acute and mental health trusts.