Less reliance on agency staff

The newly appointed CEO of the NHS Confederation said he favours the NHS recruiting more permanent staff and relying less on temporary agency staff.

Niall Dickson

Niall Dickson, who officially takes up his position with the body that represents NHS healthcare providers and commissioning groups on 1 February, told a press conference in London, at which his appointment was announced: “I don’t want to cast aspersions on those that do agency or locum work because they are, and have been, vital in keeping the service going. But being in a position where the service is able to recruit permanent staff does create much more [workforce] stability. And I would say that is clearly the goal of virtually every healthcare organisation in the country.”

Dickson said there were many reasons why the NHS has struggled in the past to recruit and retain more permanent staff. He said the NHS could improve by better valuing and supporting its existing staff, particularly given the current well-documented pressures they are working under. “There have been big changes in the workforce, in people’s expectations about work” – the greater prevalence of part-time work, for example – and the system would have to “change how it accommodates different expectations from staff themselves about how they will work”.

Asked by Recruiter whether he was concerned that Brexit could make it more difficult to recruit the staff the NHS needs, Dickson responded: “We don’t know what the result of the negotiations will be, so we don’t know what the impact will be in terms of the UK government allowing immigration from Europe for particular professions, and so forth.”

He added: “The NHS historically, you could say, has over-relied on people who have been trained in other countries, but going forward we will continue to rely to a degree on that.” A two-way interchange of health professionals between the UK and other countries in a global world “is a positive thing”, he said, adding that the government’s commitment in England to increase the number of medical places and doctors produced in the UK “is to be welcomed”. “It isn’t a question of creating ‘Fortress Britain’,” said Dickson.

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