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The NHS needs the flexibility and skills of agency nurses

He says, “Today, the cost of hiring agency staff to plug the skills gaps in the NHS has hit the headlines but the figures don’t tell the whole story. Agency staff play a vital role in the NHS, giving hospitals the flexibility to cope with fluctuating staff numbers and helping them to avoid potentially dangerous under-staffing. They are an essential part of the team.

"We supply fully trained and vetted agency nurses with the skills and experience to ensure that hospitals are always able to offer the best quality care to patients. Agency nurses can be cost effective, too, because they are only hired when needed and don’t carry the same longer-term costs, as directly employed staff – such as pensions, sick pay and holiday pay.

"There are many benefits to the NHS in hiring agency nurses. They are a crucial resource for helping hospitals to manage staff sickness, vacancies, annual leave and unexpectedly busy periods. It’s important to remember that most agency nurses have many more years of experience than the average for nursing staff. Their experience of working in the NHS is better than that of new nurses or overseas staff.

"In June, Health Secretary The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt told parliament that the number of agency nurses had increased because NHS trusts “are seeking to end the shocking under-staffing of wards that was endemic” just a few years ago. He said the hiring of extra temporary staff was part of the NHS’s response to the findings of the Francis Inquiry, which examined the failings in care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009.

"The Secretary of State stressed, however, that the use of extra agency staff would be accompanied by an increase in the number of permanent staff. Research from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has found 20,000 vacant nursing posts in England alone. Many trusts are looking abroad to find nursing staff.

"RCN Chief Executive Dr Peter Carter said in August that “NHS trusts are struggling to reach safe staffing levels”.

"Agency nurses are essential to help the NHS to cope with an ever-increasing workload and growing demand for its services.

"At Day Webster, we have just under 1,000 registered, compliant nurses available to work in London.  We carry out intensive compliance and background checks on all potential employees. In fact, we conduct more checks than most hospitals if they were hiring direct.  Our team ensures that all our nurses have the latest training, references, DBS checks, immunisations and NMC registrations.

"All our nurses are continuously assessed throughout their employment, with personal development and appraisals during training and assignments.

"Last month, reports suggested that the NHS in London is spending &pound32 million each month, or &pound384 million a year, on temporary nursing staff.  While that might sound like a high sum, it does need to be put in context. The NHS’s total budget for England alone in 2015 is expected to be around &pound100 billion.

"Most agencies charge modest fees for each shift worked by a temporary nurse. The numbers add up due to the sheer volume of crucial work these staff undertake each year. Their skills, training and dedication should not be underestimated. They are a crucial part of the team that keeps the NHS working for millions of patients each year."

Day Webster is a healthcare recruitment business specialising in nursing recruitment defends agency workers.


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