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UK – HCL defends use of NHS agency staff

20 September 2012

Staffing firm Healthcare Locums has defended the use of locum doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) where the recruiter is one of the largest suppliers of healthcare professionals.

This follows a recent NHS report on the use of agency personnel in the healthcare sector, which points to the failure of trusts to deal with the real causes of locum spend, something which has been harshly criticised.

The report by NHS Professionals, Medical Locum Expenditure: treating the disease, not the symptoms, has been welcomed by the staffing firm, which urged the NHS to take action around continued underperformance in workforce management.

“NHS spend on locum doctors (and many other healthcare professionals) has long been singled out for criticism by those who see this as an unacceptable use of public money and vilifying staffing agencies as the culprits – which is rather akin to criticising garages for selling too much fuel!,” said HCL chief executive, Stephen Burke.  

The paper, he said, “acknowledges that some locum doctors are happy to participate in a culture of exploiting market forces to play agencies (and Trusts!) off against one another to maximise earnings. 

“We have long called for the NHS to work in partnership with reputable, expert suppliers to find workable, mutually beneficial and long term solutions.”

He said that credible agencies have long changed their operations to accommodate the needs of the NHS, their biggest client.

“Locum agencies provide critical back up when the NHS' own systems inevitably fail and while it is essential that all NHS spend be scrutinised, it is time for a fundamental shift in the way the NHS manages its biggest asset,” Mr Burke said. 

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