CWS 3.0: August 6, 2014

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Costly temp: Agency nurse earns more than $3,000 in one day

National Health Services (NHS) hospitals across the U.K. are so short-staffed that on the May 5 public holiday, one facility paid $3,000 for one agency nurse's 12-hour shift. Another hospital reportedly paid more than $4,200 for a doctor who worked the same day.

Information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that, at one hospital, more than half of the doctors working on that day were locum medics.

Experts say using locum staff who are unfamiliar with the hospitals in which they are working can put patient care at risk.

One of the chief criticisms of the use of agency workers in the healthcare industry is the belief recruitment agencies are earning substantial profits for providing staff. A recent statement in The Telegraph suggests recruiters pocket as much as 20 percent of their locum worker’s earnings.

However, the Government Procurement Service (GPS) was set up to prevent this from happening.

The remit of the GPS is to work with departments and organizations across the whole public sector to ensure maximum value is extracted from every commercial relationship, and also improve the quality of service delivery.

The GPS has established a set of framework agreements that provide NHS organizations with the best possible value for money when sourcing temporary staff from a commercial supplier. Staff provided under the agreement have also undergone required employment checks in accordance with mandatory NHS Employment Check Standards.

There are currently four core framework agreements for recruiting professional healthcare workers for roles across the NHS. Each agreement also provides a list of recruitment agencies approved by the GPS and bound by the framework agreement.

Under the Agency Nursing and Social Care agreement, for example, the framework covers the full range of job roles and bands. Prices are provided on the basis of hourly charge rates for each job role. Prices include all costs so there are no hidden extras.

Under each framework agreement agencies also generally work to a fixed, flat rate per job sector and pay band, not a percentage. Therefore, the wages earned by a temporary worker do not affect a recruitment firm’s fees.

Each framework agreement must be reviewed at least every three years, in accordance with EU procurement rules. New agencies cannot join the framework agreement until it is renewed, and must wait for the negotiation of the next agreement.

All NHS Trusts are encouraged to use recruitment agencies approved by GPS and bound by a framework agreement.

Skills shortages, however, have forced hospitals to look outside the framework and pay a premium for services. Highly specialized staff have realized that they can earn more working with recruitment agencies not linked to framework agreements as there is no cap on their earning potential. 

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