Healthier Recruitment, a specialist consultancy, has analysed data to show that England’s 127 NHS Mental Health Trusts are each losing an average of £270,000 a year through using agency healthcare support workers (HCSWs) rather than bringing on board permanent staff. This is occurring, they say, despite hiring within approved staffing frameworks. The research found that, at any one time, a typical Mental Health Trust has 20 Band 2 and Band 3 vacancies to fill. Covering each of these vacancies with an agency worker, at an average cost of £15.78 an hour for 37 hours a week, equates to £140,000 over a ten week period - or £700,000 over 50 weeks.
In comparison, bringing on board 20 permanent Band 3 HCSWs, each with an annual salary of £19,854, costs 40 per cent less over a 12 month period: £421,000 including fees and NI contributions.
“The introduction of agency caps in late 2015 has no doubt had a positive impact on reducing staffing costs, with the vast majority of agency spend now channelled through approved frameworks,” says Michael Johnson-Ellis, managing director at Healthier Recruitment. “However, many NHS Trusts could benefit from putting in place more robust workforce planning strategies to further improve efficiencies.
“In our experience, the majority of hiring managers within the NHS instinctively turn to agency workers to plug gaps quickly, particularly at this Band level,” he adds. “But there needs to be a change of mind-set if we are to move away from this short-term approach to recruitment.”
Healthier Recruitment argues that by planning workforces strategically, Trusts can concentrate on recruiting candidates who not only provide quality care in the short-term, but who also have aspirations to develop and grow within the organisation.
“Ultimately, taking this approach results in both a more stable workforce and reduced agency reliance,” says Johnson-Ellis. “This benefits not only other substantive staff - by easing workloads and associated stress pressures - but also has a positive impact on CQC reports, thanks to smarter workforce planning in line with NHS Improvement strategies.”