After recent reports that the NHS spends up to £2.5 billion a year on agency staff, including one NHS hospital that paid an agency nurse £2,200 to work a single twelve shifts, and a report from Civitas that called for a broader pool of permanent staff to enhance workforce stability and patient safety, the benefits of agency staff have been put forward by healthcare recruitment group MSI.
A recent Civitas report said that agency nurses cost from £24 to £29 an hour, equivalent to between £47,000 and £56,000 a year, while the salary for an NHS band 5 nurse is between £21,478 and £27,901.
At senior levels it reported that, since the salary of an NHS consultant is between £75,249 and £101,451, four consultants could be employed by the NHS for the price of one agency consultant, which typically works out at £459,000 a year. The think tank recommends that the NHS should train more staff rather than employing locum doctors and agency nurses.
This comes at a time where another report from the Royal College of Nursing says that nearly t. where refused the chance to become nurses last year.
The Royal College of Nursing’s Fragile Frontline report says over 50,000 hopefuls chased 21,205 traineeships at a time at the same time as a drop in qualified nurses – down 1,845 over four years to 315,525 – is forcing the NHS to use agency staff.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dr Peter Carter told The Mirror: “The next Government has the power to increase training places and expand the supply of nurses.”
The RCN warned that the bill for agency nurses to plug staffing bills had increased by 150% over the past two years to an estimated £980 million this year.
However the benefits of contract staff to the public sector are often overlooked cautions Nick Simpson, the CEO of healthcare recruitment group MSI reports Business Review Europe.
In the article the CEO suggests that fluctuations in requirements of the NHS, where Agency staff plug gaps across the NHS so that it is able to provide optimum levels of care, the avoidance of permanent headcount costs, an ageing workforce – according to the RCH over a third of district nurses are over 50 – and cuts to training places requires agency staff are all benefits that are often overlooked.
“An ageing population, retirement cliffs and insufficient talent pipelining have all contributed to an acute shortage of permanent healthcare professionals,” says Simpson. “While it is imperative that these issues are addressed long-term, we cannot escape the fact that agency nurses and locum doctors provide a valuable service that, for the imminent future, the NHS simply cannot do without.”