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de Poel's MD responds to Simon Stevens's healthcare agency backlash

“Following Sir Simon Stevens’ disclosure that action would be taken on “clamping down on some of the staffing agencies ripping off the NHS" and Jeremy Hunt’s pledge last night to “drive down rates and beat them [agencies] at their own game”, this has invoked a strong response within the recruitment industry. Stevens and Hunt have made the mistake of tarnishing the entire industry with the same brush.

Sparking the debate, Stevens’ comment “What we’ve got to do is convert that [agency] spending into good-paying permanent jobs” drew the sharpest intake of breath, certainly across the temporary recruitment sector, as we witness first-hand each day the realities of the NHS and its epidemic staff shortage. 

Whilst de Poel healthcare recognises that monitoring costs and keeping these to a minimum is an important component in the balancing act of running the NHS, there is concern that Stevens’ vision to convert temporary staffing solutions into permanent roles is neither realistic nor viable. 

As Managing Director of de Poel healthcare, a leading temporary labour procurer in the health and care sector, I am acutely aware of the continual challenges faced in this sector involving staff shortages, compliance, visibility and control and patient safety. I strongly believe that they need a system to regulate this spending and management of temporary labour, but even if they were to deliver to agreed framework rates, they would still spend in excess of &pound2bn.

In addition to this, there is of course the issue of where they are going to find all the people to fill these gaps, with the advent of 24x7 primary care/extension of GP hours. It cannot be denied that our country is leading the way in providing a pioneering health service for all, with no other country even attempting such a plan. However, there is a risk that this could have a detrimental impact on the quality of care and will undoubtedly increase costs.

As it stands, NHS is already close to breaking point, with not enough GPs and Nurses available to cope with current demands, let alone a seven-day service. In light of this, the use of agency workers will be more vital than ever, as continuity of care will move even further towards shift work.


Additionally, what Stevens and Hunt failed to acknowledge was that many agency workers have previously had long-term careers as NHS employees but because of pay cuts, poor management and inflexible shift patterns they have looked to temporary working as a lifestyle choice, allowing them to work whenever they choose and maintain a better work-life balance.

Following Stevens and Hunt’s comments, I would advise that NHS should adopt a more long-term strategic view on how best to tap into temporary labour and recognise that this is an integral part of the UK plc’s workforce. Not only would this ensure it is cost-effective, but more crucially that safe staffing levels are maintained”.


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