Capped agency rates that have been implemented by NHS Improvement, the organisation tasked with helping the NHS sustainably tackle its short term challenges and longer term financial security, have been taking effect nationwide over the past few months.
Capped rates have seen the amount that agencies are able to pay their agency workers slashed significantly over the past few months, which is inevitably affecting continuity in the supply of workers.
Since capped rates were implemented in November 2015, reports have shown that Trusts have 'broken glass' on the caps with a steady increase in breaches as the further February 1st and April 1st rate caps kicked in (source: BBC News).
MP Meg Hillier has said it is unfair to lay the blame entirely at the door of agencies for the staffing crisis within the NHS, and that mismanagement within the organisation must absorb some of the blame.
It is important to note that many agencies supplying to the NHS do so from procurement frameworks such as Crown Commercial Services and Health Trust Europe (HTE), therefore were already in strict adherence to framework rates.
It could be argued that further reductions to match Monitor rates are effectively driving candidates into the hands of off-contract agencies, who know that Trusts can only let staffing shortages get to a certain point, before they need to bring external staff in, regardless of the cost.
This is likely to have contributed to the 50,000 breaches per week that were reported in May by NHS Trusts in England.
We are working in partnership with our NHS clients to ensure that we can help them to achieve their cost-saving targets in relation to agency staff wherever possible. We aim to try and minimise disruption to agency worker supply wherever possible, and help ensure that Trusts can balance the need to maintain safe staffing levels along with cost-saving targets. We recognise the difficulties in attaining this complex balance, and will endeavor to work in partnership with each Trust to help develop a tailored approach, depending on each clients' needs.
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