Headlines: May 20th, 2005

A scheme has been launched to cut the amount of money that the National Health Service spends on hiring agency staff. The Reducing Agency Costs Project, which brings together 30 NHS Trusts from across England, has been welcomed by Health Minister Lord Warner.The project, which is led by the South West London Strategic Health Authority and NHS Professionals, will drawn on good practice from across the country to reduce spending on agency staff by participating NHS Trusts.

Last year the Health Service spent just under 1.45 billion pounds on agency staff, accounting for a little over five per cent the total NHS pay bill in England. Actions specially designed to reduce the amount spent on agency nurses, particularly in London, led to savings of 65 million pounds last year.

Carmel Flatley, the Chief Executive of NHS Professionals said the new programme would provide an opportunity for the NHS to take more control of the temporary staffing agenda. NHS Professionals would support the sharing of best practice, providing practical examples of how Trusts working together could make flexible staffing an integral part of their workforce strategies.

Julie Dent, Chief Executive of South West London Strategic Health Authority said she felt strongly that NHS trusts had a responsibility as local employers to drive up standards of care by ensuring rigorous audit regimes were in place, and to achieve best value for money by procuring staff through the collective buying power that could be achieved with Agency Framework Agreements.

Lord Warner said the cost of using agency staff had been rising too fast and he pointed to growing evidence that demand for agency workers could be managed down through better planning and more flexible use of NHS staff. He cited Nottingham City Hospital, which had cut its agency spend by 900,000 pounds last year after working with NHS Professionals. “I believe it is important that Trusts’ manage their flexible workforce requirements in the most economical and effective way possible and this means reducing spend on agency staff,” he said.