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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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