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NHS Price Cap Proposals for Recruitment Spend will Seriously Compromise Patient Safety

The latest government proposals on mandatory price caps for “agency workers” in the NHS will seriously compromise patient safety and are an ill thought-out knee jerk reaction designed for political point scoring.  That’s according to The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), which today also described the consultation document as a sham, which will completely destabilise a sector already facing serious challenges.

“The proposal, which came out earlier in the month, mandating the use of frameworks – and banning off framework spend (which was one of the main symptoms of the NH’S lack of workforce planning, and thus a major area of overspend) was welcomed by APSCo. “This was actually beginning to work well as it cut out the rogue agencies which were taking advantage of hospitals’ desperation to maintain patient safety levels  amid chronic staff shortages, by charging extortionate rates,” says Samantha Hurley, Head of External Relations & Compliance at APSCo .    

“The price caps risk unravelling a system that has just started to achieve its objective.  Our members were starting to see their Trust clients coming to them to help them remove their off-framework resource.  Trusts will now be faced with using the mechanism that allows them to override price caps under exceptional circumstances in the interests of patient safety, as this will be the only avenue to procure the skills needed if professionals and agencies are unable to work at the rates proposed - which is highly likely. There is therefore, every possibility that the price caps will create a & lsquo;black market’ where demand dictates its own price point. This will put the sector right back into the hands of off-framework expenditure and will cost the NHS millions.”  

“The consultation itself, which closes on 13 November – is nothing more than a sham - given that the aim is to implement this proposal on 23 November.  There is no way that responses can be properly gathered and evaluated within a 10 day timescale – it is clear that their mind is already made up.”

APSCo says that the proposals take no account of regional variances or specialty skills shortages – and nor do they acknowledge the cost of compliance to the recruitment firm.

“Despite engaging with the Department of Health some months ago to offer the benefit of our and our members’ knowledge and experience of working on large public sector procurement contracts, to help the Department find practical solutions to the NHS’ current staffing predicament, the Government has instead chosen not to consult with the sector and come up with what I can only describe as a knee jerk reaction which, if implemented will have dire consequences.”


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