A Four-Point Plan for Reducing Agency Spend

26 July 2022

In the past week, NHS England has announced the introduction of a ceiling on the amount spent within each integrated care system (ICS) on agency staff — cutting it by at least 10% in each area in one year — as part of a drive to find further savings across the health service.

This is clearly a big challenge for ICS leaders, workforce managers, and Finance and HR teams, and needs thoughtful management to ensure that staffing levels are maintained without surpassing the capped budget via agency use.

A unique framework exists to support workforce transformation and reduce agency spend, with four key areas which can be combined to support ICSs to meet the challenge of reducing agency spend, whilst also improving efficiency across their workforce at the same time.

The Countess of Chester Hospital Commercial Procurement Services (COCH CPS) provides a framework for a partnership with ICSs to achieve their workforce aims, using the following four-point plan…

1. Identify root causes for agency demand with advanced people analytics

A Foundation Trust has used an NHS workforce-specific business intelligence tool to intelligently combine data from 11 different workforce systems to get a holistic view of their workforce on one screen, identifying root causes for demand through triangulating data sources and gaining actionable insights.

2. Improve demand management with actionable insights into future workforce gaps

Organisations in Lancashire and Greater Manchester are using a digital tool to capture key data on future recruitment demand, retention risks and critical succession gaps. One trust identified 114 future vacancies which were not recorded on any of its internal systems, it gained an average of 80 days additional lead time to recruit, helping proactively avoid filling them with agency staff.

3. Improve agency spend controls, governance and visibility through an integrated flexible workforce management platform

A Trust in the Midlands has delivered significant savings, reduced reliance on agency supply, increased bank utilisation, and reduced operating costs through the adoption of robotic automation technology. Over 12 months, reducing locum agency spending by £0.5m per month and seeing a 61% reduction in agency commission breaches from 66% to 5%.

4. Reduce reliance on agency use, through solutions that grow internal banks and develop ICS collaborative banks

Trusts belonging to collaborative banks in both the Northwest and Southwest of England used a digital marketing support service to attract new candidates to their banks with effective and engaging recruitment campaigns, leading to hundreds of unique applications a week and a 197% increase in bank shifts filled, reducing the requirement for agency use.

These working examples all make use of workforce efficiency tools, designed to gain measurable improvements in all areas of workforce management and progress your workforce transformation journey using a platform that consists of interoperable technology and service modules designed to digitise the NHS People Plan.

As ICSs and their constituent trusts will be monitored on their performance against the agency spend ceiling from 1st September, it can be seen that swift action to measure agency spend and improve workforce efficiency will be essential to increase confidence ahead of the control measures being implemented, allowing ICSs and ICBs to move focus to other key areas of improvement as their systems progress.

To find out more and discuss how this unique combination of transformation programmes can support meeting the agency reduction challenge set for your ICS, please get in touch at info@liaisongroup.com

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