Staffing agencies 'not ripping off the NHS', says REC

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
1 June 2015

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has hit back after NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens accused agencies of “ripping off the NHS”.

Sir Simon, speaking on the The Andrew Marr Show, said spending on agency staff was an area where the NHS needed to do more.

“We have got to make sure we are using the money we’ve got more wisely,” he said.

“We are overspending by £1.8 billion on temporary staff and we have got to tackle that.

“We will have to clamp down on some of these staffing agencies who frankly are ripping off the NHS.”

Tom Hadley, director of policy at the REC, said the “overwhelming majority” of the NHS trusts used frameworks to obtain agency staff, where rates were negotiated by central government.

“Agencies are not ripping off the NHS,” said Hadley. “Poor workforce planning has left the NHS short of nurses, and although they are advertising they can’t find people willing to take on jobs as permanent employees. They then turn to agencies that can provide nurses at the last minute or on short to medium-term contracts to ensure safe staffing levels are maintained.

“What he [Sir Simon] doesn’t mention is that many agency nurses have previously had long careers as NHS employees but because of pay freezes, poor management and inflexible schedules have decided it suits them better to seek work via agencies who can help them find shifts that fit round their family life and allow them to work where and when they choose."

Hadley said “generally speaking” a Band 5 agency nurse would earn £20-£25 per hour and an agency would charge a fee of between 10-20 per cent.

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