The REC has submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to NHS Improvement today as members report spiralling hospital staffing bank rates. Despite repeated claims from Government that staffing banks always offer value for money, the REC says banks are not inherently better than well-managed agency provision for the NHS. The Government should treat both forms of provision equally.
In 2015 the government capped the amount that can be charged by employment agencies, aiming to reduce NHS spending on temporary agency staff. Originally this cap was meant to apply to both NHS banks and agencies, but it was amended at the last minute to exclude banks.
The REC argues that this unlevel playing field unfairly targets recruitment agencies who have delivered year-on-year improvements for the NHS. At the time, the Government said it would review the cap if bank rates increased significantly, but insufficient data on bank spending has been made available.
Previous requests by the REC for more granular data about NHS spending on bank versus agency staff received no answer. The REC has today asked for this formally making an FoI request, including break downs for different roles including doctors, nurses and consultants. This follows reports from REC members that the amount charged by NHS banks has risen significantly.
Neil Carberry, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said:
“Transparency in how the NHS spends taxpayer’s money is in the public interest. NHS Improvement made a commitment to review bank rates if they were found to be rising, and our members have reported for some time now that this is the case. Yet the government has not published data on its spending with banks, making it impossible to tell whether the public is getting good value for money. That’s why this FoI request is so necessary.
“During the pandemic we’ve seen exactly why staffing agencies are critical partners to the UK’s health service. They have provided the NHS with the flexible workforce needed to meet urgent demand across the healthcare system. When speed was of the essence, we have seen recruitment agencies deploy healthcare professionals in just a matter of days. In the aftermath of this crisis, a real partnership between the NHS and the recruitment industry needs to become the new normal. Transparency and a level playing field must be a basic building block of that partnership.”