The NHS staffing crisis will get worse because of new measures to restrict trusts from hiring agency nurses and locum doctors who are also employed as substantive staff in the NHS, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has warned.
A recent survey of 199 healthcare recruitment businesses found that in 48 per cent of agencies, more than half of the temporary nurses, doctors, and allied health professionals on their books are also employed substantively in the NHS.
From 1 April, trusts will no longer be able to turn to these professionals to fill gaps in rotas. The move is designed to encourage nurses and doctors to seek overtime shifts via internal NHS banks, rather than agencies. However, according to REC research:
- Seventy-seven per cent of healthcare recruiters expect the candidates on their books to prioritise finding work in the private sector rather than the NHS in response to the ban.
- Fifty-six per cent expect some nurses and doctors to stop working additional shifts in the NHS altogether.
- Only 18 per cent believe that some candidates will transfer to hospital banks for additional work.
Last month, REC research in partnership with the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found that substantive NHS staff are deterred from signing up to internal banks due to unreliable communication, old-fashioned payment procedures, poor management, and lack of professionalism in comparison to specialist agencies.
REC chief executive Kevin Green says:
“The Department of Health is putting savings before patient safety. NHS trusts up and down the country will not be able to cover shifts, putting patients at risk.
“The NHS is facing one of the worst ever staff shortages. The pay caps introduced last year have resulted in doctors and nurses choosing to work fewer shifts, go abroad, or to leave the sector altogether, meaning more gaps in rotas. Meanwhile, EU nurses are quitting in increasing numbers because the government has failed to provide any security about their future in the UK. This new ban will remove a lifeline and make a difficult situation worse.
“Costs must be controlled, and the REC is committed to working with NHS Improvement to develop flexible staffing models that work for all parties. However, now is not the time to make it more difficult and less attractive for doctors and nurses to take on additional shifts.”
Agency workers in the NHS accounted for 0.8 per cent of the total NHS employment in 2015.
Labour calls for £500m emergency ‘winter bailout fund’ for NHS
Labour will call for the government to commit a £500m “winter bailout fund” for the NHS over the coming months.
Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, says the money is needed to increase capacity in struggling hospitals and pay for extra staff as the NHS faces the worst winter on record.
He also said it was Labour’s “ambition” to return NHS funding increases to the same level as during the 1997-2010 Labour governments.
Mr Ashworth claims that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and Theresa May have failed to provide an adequate plan to how the NHS is preparing, for what is expected to be, the worst winter on record for the health and social care service.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said:
“Any bailout money this winter should be used to bolster frontline staff and help ensure safe patient care. Having the right number of nurses is key to treating people effectively and safely.
“Yet too many hospitals are chronically short of nursing staff. As demand increases over the winter months, it’s patients who will pay the price unless something is done.
“Properly funding the NHS is a political choice – it should not reach the stage where a last-minute bailout is required to keep people safe.”
The Shadow Health Secretary will use a speech to the Labour party conference today to call for the extra funding.
£13 million funding to help hospital A&Es prepare for winter
The Department of Health has announced 19 hospitals in England will benefit from extra funding for emergency care over winter.
Following a plea for funding from NHS Providers, the association that represents healthcare trusts, the Department of Health (DoH) has announced it will provide additional funding to nineteen NHS hospitals in England.
The 19 hospitals across England will be given a cash injection of over £13 million for emergency care, in the latest wave of winter funding announced today by Health Minister Philip Dunne.
Around £13 million has been awarded to improve patient flow through A&E, ensuring departments are prepared for busy times during winter. The additional funding brings the total given to hospitals since April to over £90 million, part of the dedicated funding announced in the Spring Budget.
Minister of State for Health Philip Dunne said:
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff, the NHS has put in place strong plans ahead of winter – ensuring patients continue to receive safe and efficient care as demand rises over the coming months.
This funding will give more hospitals the boost they need to streamline patient flow in A&E, freeing up A&Es to care for the sickest patients and helping make sure all patients get the right treatment in the right place as quickly as possible”.
The funding will be used to help hospitals finalise preparations ahead of winter, particularly to handle the large volumes of patients attending A&E. By investing in the necessary equipment or infrastructure, hospitals will be able to target improvements to patient flow and relieve pressure on A&E.
The funding supports NHS England’s wider plans to improve A&E performance in England by 2018. In particular, it will help hospitals hit the target of admitting, transferring or discharging 95% of patients within 4 hours.
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