Recruiters call on long-term solution to NHS talent crisis

Recruiters have backed calls for the NHS to have a long-term solution to the talent crisis currently afflicting the service.

The calls follow research, published by the Open University, that found NHS trusts in England are spending at least £1.46bn each year on temporary nursing staff.

The Open University’s report, ‘Tackling the Nurse Shortage’, is based on Freedom of Information requests to 241 NHS trusts. The data shows that almost £1.5bn is spent on bank and agency nurses annually, and further finds if the hours currently worked by temporary staff were instead covered by permanent nurses, the NHS could save as much as £560m a year.

Commenting on the data, Michael Johnson-Ellis, managing director at Healthier Recruitment, backed Jan Draper’s, professor of nursing at the Open University, conclusion that there needs to be a sustainable solution that increases and enhances the nursing workforce in the mid and long term, to ensure health services are protected against future changes and hardships.

“The Open University’s report mirrors our own findings around the significant savings that can be made through replacing temporary staff with permanent or fixed-term hires. While there will always be a place for agency workers within a wider strategic workforce plan, hiring managers can often benefit from objectively reviewing their existing rosters to determine where savings can easily be made. For example, by looking at where full-time, permanent roles can be created from several positions currently being plugged by temps.”

But Olivia Spruce, chief operating officer at Positive Healthcare, warns it cannot be down to the NHS alone to come up with a strategy to fill an NHS-wide shortfall of an estimated 100,000 vacancies. 

“These posts don’t simply remain vacant as a result of pure NHS workforce planning; the problem needs to be universally addressed," she told Recruiter. “The British government needs support by not refusing visa’s for foreign healthcare workers. Poor and descending morale within the NHS needs to be addressed, the governments approach to Brexit didn’t help the permanent workforce population of valuable EU nurses, and we need better training and incentives for nurses at entry-level.

“From an agency perspective, as a multi-framework supplier we have witnessed reduced margins and more stringent compliance processes, whilst we are still competing with off-framework suppliers with potentially reduced compliance standards and working with often, significantly higher profit margins. 

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