New rules launched to reduce recruitment agency spend in the NHS

The NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor published new rules to reduce costs

Over the last few years, the amount of money spent on agency staffing has increased to around £3.3 billion per year. Some providers acknowledge that it is increasingly difficult to locally secure best value on the quality and cost of agency staffing where no national rules currently exist.

The measures being set out today follow wide-scale engagement with local nurse directors and finance directors and are designed to strengthen significantly providers’ ability to secure the best deal on the quality and cost of local agency staff.

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The new rules will see:

  • an annual ceiling for total agency spend for each trust between 2015/16 and 2018/19; trusts are being sent individual ceilings today and will have the opportunity to apply for exceptions if there are specific local needs
  • mandatory use of frameworks for procuring agency staff
  • limits on the amount individual agency staff can be paid per shift, which will be implemented later in the year after further work by the two organisations

Peter Blythin, Director of Nursing at the NHS Trust Development Authority said:

Whilst a number of existing local frameworks work well to support local nurse directors to find high quality agency staff, there is a recognition that more can be done to give trusts greater powers to have more control over their use of agency staff in the future.

The creation of an assurance process to make sure local frameworks are providing high quality staff at the right price, the introduction of ceilings to ensure boards can have a focused programme on reducing over-reliance on agency staff where it exists and future measures to limit the inflated costs associated with some agency arrangements, will all help to ensure that local providers can, in future, be better equipped to focus on the important issues of high quality staff and patient safety whilst becoming more efficient.

Ruth May, Nursing Director of Monitor, said:

Trusts are working hard to reduce the amount of agency staff they use, and this is something we’re actively supporting through initiatives like our agency support team.

We’ve worked hard with the NHS to develop this set of rules which will support boards and in particular chief nurses to reinvest the money currently spent on agency staff into providing the best care for patients. Today’s guidance is another step in delivering a safe and secure NHS that will meet the needs of patients long into the future.

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