APSCo blames NHS staffing problems on 'inefficient purchasing model'

25 June 2015

An inefficient purchasing model is partly to blame for staffing and skills problems in the NHS, according to a recruitment trade body.

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) made the comments in an open letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, accusing him of using the recruitment sector as a scapegoat for temporary staff costs. APSCo’s chief executive Ann Swain said she was “disappointed” by Hunt’s denigration of the recruitment sector, which she said was not supported by the facts.

The letter said the recruitment company margin was a small percentage of the overall cost of a temporary worker and said ineffective workforce planning strategies in the NHS and a decrease in nurse training places were factors contributing to the problem.

Swain’s letter said: “Listening to your rhetoric and the media coverage at the time, it could appear to the uninitiated that the flexible staffing cost crisis in the NHS is solely and completely the responsibility of the UK healthcare recruitment sector. The rising costs of temporary staff used by the NHS is caused by a much more complex set of circumstances, and is, I believe, a symptom of ineffective workforce planning in the NHS and a wider issue regarding clinical skills and staffing shortages in the UK.”

Swain also criticised the way purchasing framework agreements worked in the NHS.

She said: “There are a number of different purchasing organisations within the NHS covering the provision of staff each of which has purchasing framework agreements in place under which a variety of recruitment companies agree to provide staff at an agreed margin. Individual health trusts may decide to procure staff through any of these procurement bodies – or none. Recruitment firms therefore have to tender for a place on a number of different framework agreements with different purchasing bodies and also need to have individual agreements with trusts and hospitals that are not part of a framework. This is not an efficient purchasing model – particularly as it allows hospitals to recruit outside of any framework.”

Swain added: “APSCo is calling upon Mr Hunt to make use of the fact that APSCo can provide practical advice on how the Department of Health might help NHS procurement bodies and trusts organise their staffing supply chain.”

APSCo also said there was a clear correlation between the continued rise in the use of temporary nursing staff and a 16 per cent decrease since 2010 in nursing training places within the NHS. It added recruitment company margin was a small percentage of the overall cost of a temporary worker.

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