NHS staff will be limited to working additional shifts via less-costly and much lower-paying NHS staff banks.
With record numbers of registered nursing vacancies in England, “expensive” agency workers are often used by the NHS to bolster the current workforce and ensure patient safety.
The plan explains, “We propose to support NHS providers to develop and implement policy that prevents substantive staff from offering their services back to the NHS through an employment agency, and instead do so through their local collaborative bank.”
Making ends meet.
It comes as the NHS seeks to reduce its reliance on agency workers in a bid to cut costs.
Grass-roots campaigning group Nurses United UK claims nursing staff often rely on additional agency shifts to make ends meet.
Lead organiser Anthony Johnson explained, “Whilst this government continues to cut nurses pay in real terms, many nurses will have no choice but to work for private agencies. This is a policy designed in this Government’s spin room, not with anyone with any experience of the frontline.
“Our NHS can’t cope without agency workers until this Government restores NHS pay back to safety. Right now this policy is just another attack on patient care. We should all oppose it”
NHS staff banks can pay just a quarter of the hourly rate of nursing agencies.
Sarah, a clinical support worker from the West Midlands, told NursingNotes that agency work was the only way she is able to keep on top of the rising cost of living.
She explained, “Working an extra agency shift or two a month helps to pay my energy bills. I would have to work four or even five extra bank shifts to earn the same amount… If a ban is introduced I might have no choice but to leave my NHS role and just work agency.”
Recruitment and retention.
The NHS workforce plan also sets out pledges to massively increase the current NHS workforce through recruitment and retention.
Speaking about the publication of the report, Royal College of Nursing General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen said, “Detail to underpin these ambitious numbers will be key to the success of the first NHSworkforceplan alongside similar planning for social care and the wider health and care system.
“Targets alone will not deliver the staff that the NHS needs to be able to care for patients now. Nursing leaders would have wished to see greater reference to patient safety challenges and recognition of how current shortages are impacting on staff and retention at present.
“While expanding places is key, it requires the experienced nurses to support students during their education. The responsibility to expand training must not fall on local health systems before central government addresses key issues like inadequate pay and funding.”