Could the NHS save over £10million per year on consultants by growing their own staff banks?

30 August 2018

As we release the results of our annual ‘Taking the Temperature’ report, which looks at anonymised temporary staffing data from around a quarter of UK NHS trusts, we realise the potential cost savings to the NHS of switching to a more self-sufficient substantive bank approach to temporary staffing.

Our key findings show that temporary staffing booked via agencies is costing NHS trusts up to £30 per hour more for the same level of consultant.  The research also highlights that if temporary staff were employed substantively via a trust’s bank they could be saving almost £50 per hour – equating to potential annual savings on this staff group exceeding £10m.

Encouragingly, this 2018 annual Taking The Temperature report shows that levels of bank staff, particularly after the reinforcement of the IR35 legislation, have increased.

We reported in 2016/17 a huge increase in medical banks, with the number almost doubling across England to 67%. This trend is continuing and at the end of 17/18, an estimated four in every five trusts now have a medical bank up and running.

The growth in bank provides a platform for greater trust collaboration across regions, STPs or even specialties. By working collaboratively, trusts are in a better position to share resources across a number of trusts, particularly where specialties are in short supply as, evidenced in this report.  In the North East, trusts are successfully collaborating using Liaison Workforce’s TempRE solution to manage a shared Junior Doctor bank.

Taking The Temperature figures show that NHS spending on agency (non-contract) temporary staff in England decreased from £3.07bn in 2016/17 to £2.41bn in 2017/18.

The main reasons for engaging temporary staff in the NHS were driven by the need to fill unfilled substantive vacancies – 78.9% of hours booked in 2017/18, a reduction from the 85.8% reported in 2016/17. Clash or a gap in rota accounted for 8.3% of bookings during the year, up from 6.3% in 2016/17, whilst service pressure accounted for 4.5%. This is likely to have had a negative effect on average rates booked during the year, as trusts struggle with increasing demand and limited resource.

Recently appointed Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock talks about the need for flexible working within the NHS. Our data shows that if all NHS trusts were better able to manage annual leave, study leave and plug the clash or gap, then they would reduce the need to fill substantive vacancies by as much as 10%.

One way we are helping our NHS clients to do this is through our TempRE Rostering software solution. This includes the ability to manage rota schedules and apply the terms and conditions of service, for NHS doctors and dentists in training in England, to the rota schedules.

Andrew Armitage, CEO, Liaison Group.