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HCL plc: NHS must embrace flexible working to achieve reform

HCL plc: NHS must embrace flexible working to achieve reform
Healthcare Locums plc (HCL), the UKs leading healthcare staffing company, said today that the NHS must embrace flexible workforce practices or risk compromising patient care as it implements the Coalition Governments structural reforms.
The company, which supplies health and social care staff to public and private healthcare providers across the world, broadly welcomed the reforms, saying that they should bring healthcare provision closer to local patients needs by giving GPs the power to commission services. The company also said it would welcome an increase in healthy competition, with GPs being encouraged to consider any willing public or private sector service provider in managing the needs of their patients.
HCL also called for the NHS to embrace flexible working practices, saying that this was vital to achieving the Governments reforms and the 20 billion of efficiency savings which the Health Service has been asked to make.
Kate Bleasdale, Executive Vice Chairman of HCL, explained:
By flexible working, we mean an NHS workforce that makes effective use of locum and agency staff, not just substantive staff employed full time by the NHS. Agency staff are a cost effective way of responding to local fluctuations in demand for healthcare because they are only paid for the hours they are actually working. They can be brought in to deal with peaks in demand  - during a flu epidemic, for example and then dispensed with when their services are no longer needed.
Agency staff do not incur hidden costs such as NHS employers pension contribution The current NHS pensions liability stands at almost 300 billion and there have been many calls for its reform. Many types of agency staff are also cheaper on an hour for hour basis. Consultant doctors are an excellent example substantive consultants working overtime are around 1.4 times more expensive than bringing in locum consultants.
HCL also echoed warnings from the Royal College of Surgeons of England against delaying elective (non-urgent) surgery in a bid to achieve the 20 billion worth of efficiency savings with which it has been tasked. The company warned of the adverse effect that this could have on patient care and recommended greater use of flexible locum staffing to respond to peaks in demand for elective surgery.
On the proposed NHS reforms, Ms Bleasdale summarised:
Any reform that increases the flexibility and responsiveness of the NHS procurement is to be welcomed. Measures that encourage healthy competition from any willing provider and reward successful outcomes are also good. Transforming the way NHS workforce operates is vital to achieving these aims.
The use of locum and agency staff should not be seen as an expense that can be cut as this could have an adverse effect on patient care. Rather, agency staff should be embraced as enabling the NHS workforce to become more flexible and cost-efficient.


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