NHS trusts increase control over temporary staff spending as bank workers rise and agency staff bookings drop, shows latest report.

27 November 2018

NHS trusts in England continue to increase their use of bank workers rather than more expensive agency staff according to a recent report released this week – saving the NHS an average of £332 per eight hour shift.

The Taking the Temperature report is produced by leading workforce and financial services provider to the NHS, Liaison Workforce and is an analysis of NHS spending on temporary agency (non-contract) staff in England.

Temporary Consultants supplied by agencies cost on average 30 per cent more than those from the NHS’s own ‘staff banks’ despite doing the exact same job. By recruiting Consultants via their own bank, NHS trusts and health boards are realising average savings of £332 per eight hour shift.

Liaison Group’s CEO Andrew Armitage comments: “Last quarter, the percentage of temporary hours filled using a bank worker rather than a more costly agency worker increased by 4% to 29% across England.  The benefits are tangible cost savings for the trusts driving these programmes as the analysis shows again this quarter, every time a shift is booked. What this doesn’t show is the additional benefits of efficiency and enhanced quality of care delivered through both substantive staff taking additional shifts and medical locums signing up directly to the bank enjoying the benefits that flexible working through the trusts’ bank provides.”

The main reason for booking locum workers was ‘staff vacancies’ which rose slightly in Q2 to 83.2 per cent of all bookings. Service pressure was cited as the reason behind 6.7% of bookings made, indicating that trusts are continuing to rely on agency staff to cope with the demand on services in the run up to winter.

NHS trusts and health boards are continuing to pay over the odds for ‘temporary’ locum workers who, in some cases, have been working for more than a year at high agency rates according to a recent report.

The Taking the Temperature Q2 report shows that across the top ten highest earning locums (or temporary workers) during the last quarter the projected annual cost to the NHS is £3.5 million, the equivalent of 17 whole time or permanent staff.  Despite being ‘locum’ workers these top ten highest earners have worked consecutively for six months or more, whilst six have been in their post for more than a year.

NHS trusts and health boards have been set a price cap by NHS Improvement stating that they should not spend more than 55% above the basic rate for a staff member. Any agency shift which costs more than £100 an hour must be signed off by the trust’s Chief Executive, however these pay rates are often overridden to ensure staffing numbers remain at a level that provides the best possible care for patients.

To find out more about average temporary worker pay rates in your NHS region across grade and specialty download a copy of the Taking the Temperature report here.