The U.K. government agreed to a new deal with private companies to supply agency nurses to the National Health Service, according to the Nursing Times. The agreement offers agency staff work based on “the same or no less favorable” treatment than if they had been directly recruited, according to the government.
All staff supplied through the new framework will be employed on a set national rate for their role with the ability to apply “London weighting” and extra charges for difficult to recruit posts. The framework has been drawn up by the Government Procurement Service, which works to negotiate savings for the public sector by buying products and services in bulk.
The deal could result in a 15 percent saving for NHS trusts compared with 2012 agency rates. If all trusts used the new framework, which is not mandatory, it could save the health service millions of pounds, according to the GPS
Carol Holroyd, head of sourcing and category management at the GPS, said: “The new framework will deliver savings compared to the previous framework and hourly charge rates include all costs so there are no hidden extras.”
Agency supplier HCL Nursing has called for mandatory use of framework agreements in the NHS, arguing that trusts that negotiate their own deals open the system to risk through variations in compliance and wild fluctuations in cost.
The use of agency staff is predicted to rise due to reductions in full-time nursing posts and increasing pressure and demands on the health service. According to healthcare analysts Laing and Buisson, overall spending on agency staff has risen by 42 percent since 2008.
It fell by 10 percent and 16 percent during 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively, but Laing and Buisson have predicted figures for the 2012-13 financial year, which finished at the end of March, would show an increase that was likely to have continued into the present financial year.
Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organization, said: “Framework agreements have a major role to play in the way employers work with agencies. Where employers use agency staff there are two important considerations.”
“Firstly to continually try and reduce reliance on agency staff in the first place by having ever more efficient and effective recruitment processes — so reducing the length of time temporary staff are required — and secondly by helping reduce the cost of agency staff when they do use them,” he added.