How NHS trusts are controlling agency spending to secure the future of their workforce

28 November 2018

From having worked with many NHS trusts over the years, it’s clear that the organisational culture can often be one of ‘firefighting’ to plug workforce gaps and that often the decision to recruit agency staff falls to staff falls with staff who don’t necessarily have the budget authority to make the big financial commitments normally associated with agency staff. Frontline medical staff bookers are under enormous pressure to make up the shortfall in staff to ensure that patient care is not affected and have traditionally relied on agencies to plug this gap.

But this comes at a cost.  The NHSi released figures that reported a provider sector deficit of £999m in Q1 18/19. This is £26m above the planned deficit.

Our annual Taking the Temperature analysis across all temporary staffing shows that 71% of NHS temporary staff are still being booked from ten agencies and between the most and least expensive agency, there is a difference of £30.30 p/h in total pay and commission for Consultants – the equivalent of an additional £242 per eight hour shift – despite the fact they are supplying the same grade of staff.

Lord Carter’s report steered towards reducing this variation in in pay and commission, giving trusts greater control over their agency spending by upskilling the workforce decision makers to predict and forward plan to plug gaps. The specific efficiency savings linked in Lord Carter’s productivity themes in workforce productivity, resource optimisation and benchmarking are estimated to be £296m and are forecast to rise to £1.9bn by the end of 18/19.

To do this, the decision makers need to have the right analytics in place and that’s where Liaison Workforce’s solutions are proving effective. With detailed management information, trusts can benchmark, plan and model the way they manage their temporary workforce.

The main reason for engaging temporary staff in the NHS is driven by the need to fill unfilled substantive vacancies.  Providers reported overall vacancy rates of 9.2% in Q1, representative of 108,000 WTE vacancies.

Liaison Workforce offers access to advance workforce HR analytics enabling trusts to look at the root cause of locum usage from whole-of-workforce data – empowering trusts to negotiate reduced rates with agencies and look towards growing their own internal bank of staff.  Based on one unified view of all staff groups and types, whether substantive, bank or agency, our service enables trusts to manage the workforce more effectively and benefit from additional cost savings and efficiencies.

The NHS is not a free service, we pay for healthcare through taxes. Through our work, NHS trusts are seeing a much better return on this investment with trusts and health boards using our services to improve control, bring costs down and improve self-sufficiency and we have seen reductions of up to 60% in less than a year at some trusts we work with.

Find out how Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust achieved a 64% reduction in medical locum agency spend; Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust saved £257k per month on contingent staff costs; and Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust beat its £200k temporary staff savings target by partnering with Liaison Workforce in our CASE STUDIES

Eduardo Leonardo

Business Development Manager, Liaison Workforce

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