Five tips: How to avoid panic buying temporary staff

Jon Milton
12 April 2015

A recent Sky News investigation uncovered some inconvenient truths about NHS spending on medical locums.

It found some trusts had spent extortionate amounts on temporary staff, with one trust paying £3,258 for a doctor to work a 24-hour shift. The demand for locums comes as wards suffer staff shortages, but in reality, temporary staff procurement can be managed much more cost-effectively.

When faced with critical temporary staffing issues like the NHS is, organisations can easily fall into the trap of panic buying without carefully considering their precise needs, price point, and the expertise required. Unfortunately, some recruitment agencies know this all too well, so instances of excessive payments are sometimes the result of agencies exploiting this situation. How can organisations manage staff procurement to avoid this exploitation? Comensura has issued the following guidance on how to efficiently procure locums and other critical temporary staff:

1. Plan rather than react to your needs
Closely monitor what staff are bought, for what reason, at what cost and with which agency. Then you can understand what you actually need over what you think you need.

2. Work with, not against, your peers
Don’t feel you must compete with organisations that have similar requirements. If you communicate the problem with each other, you can work together, share advice and your alliance could eventually become more dominant than the recruitment agencies you negotiate with.

3. Recruitment agencies do need your business
Look at the bigger picture and establish how you work with recruitment agencies. Is there a way you can make them more competitive? This may generate competitive pricing, reducing your staff costs.

4. The hirer should be made accountable
The responsibility to manage temporary staffing requirements should be in the hands of the departments who need them. They should receive support and guidance on staffing requirements, as should individuals who organise staff rotas.

5. Work out what you’re willing to pay and on what terms
Understand your organisation’s temporary staffing needs and your financial capability. By establishing what terms and pay scales are acceptable, you can create a stronger basis for negotiation with agencies.

We’ve seen that the procurement of locum staff can bring with it hefty bills and bad publicity. But it doesn’t have to be like that, for the NHS or any other organisation with a critical temporary staffing need. By planning ahead and building stronger terms that you can use to negotiate with agencies, organisations can minimise temporary staffing costs and ensure that its budget is spent more efficiently.

Jon Milton is a director at Comensura

Jon Milton will be speaking on the upcoming SM webinar, in association with Comensura, How to tender for complex services on Wednesday 22 April at 13.00 (BST), 14.00 (CEST). Click here to register for the webinar.

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