REC: Jeremy Hunts proposals risk reduced patient safety, ward closures and chaos
In its response to the Monitor’s consultation National price caps for agency staff working in the NHS, which closed on Friday, the REC sets out concerns that Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt’s proposed rule that agency staff must receive the same or less pay per shift as substantive staff:
• undermines existing framework agreements which already set national wage levels
• won’t be adhered to by trusts that are desperately short of staff, creating confusion and chaos
• will drive many existing agency workers out of the market, further exacerbating staff and skills shortages within the health system.
Director of Policy at the REC, Tom Hadley, says:
“Jeremy Hunt’s ill-thought out proposals risk real damage to patient care by creating serious problems maintaining safe staffing levels. Agency staff play a vital role keeping lights on and wards open in NHS hospitals nationwide. Winter is coming and this is no time to make it harder to keep wards open as flu season approaches.
“Cutting agency nurses’ and doctors’ pay so that their remuneration does not reflect the nature of temporary work – that it often involves travelling across the country to fill a shift at the last minute, that agency workers don’t receive paid leave and have to fund all their training – is going to have a hugely negative impact on hospitals who are already struggling to meet government targets for care. If the NHS becomes a less attractive place to work it will be harder to recruit skilled staff seeking temporary roles both from within the UK and abroad from places like Australia and New Zealand.
“Many agency workers choose to work that way because they value the flexibility – whether they are parents, carers or nearing retirement. They are not going to respond to these changes by seeking full-time, substantive roles in the hospitals they currently work in, they will simply leave the public sector to find jobs with private employers who will continue to allow them the flexibility they want.
“We urge Jeremy Hunt to listen to our members and work with our industry to find workable, sensible solutions to the staffing problems the NHS faces. What he’s put forward so far is not that solution and could create chaos.”
The REC is calling for the government to address financial pressures within the NHS by:
• focusing on workforce planning
• investing in attracting and retaining new permanent staff
• working in partnership with recruiters who supply temporary staff, not demonising them.