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UK – REC comments on NHS agency staff consultation response

14 June 2019

NHS Improvement today updated a clause to the proposed rules to allow NHS trusts to use agency workers in non-clinical, admin and estates roles “where there is an exceptional and direct risk to patient safety.”

The update was the result of their consultation on reducing expenditure on NHS agency staff as well as pressure from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

NHS Improvement also said it has exempted agency staff who are working on highly important projects, and all IT staff from the restriction on the use of agency workers.

Furthermore, there will be an implementation period of three months before the rules go live on 16 September 2019.

Sophie Wingfield, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, commented, “The REC called for the addition of the ‘break-glass’ clause and it is good to see NHSI include this. Back office staff often play a vital role which if left unfilled will have a detrimental effect on patient safety.”

“However, this is really just a silver lining,” Wingfield said. “With over 100,000 unfilled vacancies in the NHS, agency workers are a vital part of the staffing of the health service, and are essential for maintaining patient safety during the critical staff shortages we currently have. What we need is a change of attitude towards agency workers in the health and social care service, and an acknowledgement of the experience and expertise that they bring to NHS trusts up and down the country.”

Earlier this year, the NHS published its “Long-Term Plan” which outlines its strategies for the recruitment of staff over the next 10 years and detailed how the £20.5 billion annual budget will be spent.

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