NHS Agency Staff Wars - What is the real issue here?

We have seen a rise in criticism over the use and cost of NHS agency staff workers who fill the gaps in staffing levels on a daily basis. This is a real issue for all involved. It is open to abuse, affects patient care and disrupts progress. But seemingly, the use of agency staff is a necessity in today's NHS climate.

If we want to fix this, we must treat the cause rather than the symptoms.

Candace Imison from the Nuffield Trust has suggested that  The real problem - which government proposals completely fail to address - is that hospital trusts are finding it difficult to fill vacancies on a substantive basis and at the same time there has been an increase in the number of nursing posts required to meet activity pressures and the newly defined safe staffing levels.

However, we would go one step deeper in the search for a cause. WHY is the NHS failing to fill vacancies, recruit and retain vital staff?

NHS staff are the most likely of all public sector workers to feel stressed because of their job, according to the #Clockoff survey results. 

We hear so often how the NHS is in crisis. However, we feel that the effect the recent cuts have had, and continue to have, on the well-being of the workforce is being ignored. The well being of staff is not being made a priority, is THIS is the real issue? is THIS is why the NHS cannot retain staff?

 - Despite stress and mental ill health being major causes of sickness absence, only 57% of NHS trusts have a policy to support mental well being.

Perhaps NHS Trusts do not realise the true value of an engaged workforce?

-An NHS organisation with 3,000 staff could save an estimated £235,000 in staff absence costs by improving levels of staff engagement to match the 10% best performing NHS employers.

-Organisations with higher levels of staff engagement have been found to have 13% lower staff turnover and significantly reduced sickness absence rates.

-Consultancy firm PwC found that healthcare providers can reap £9.20 in benefits from every £1 invested in staff health and well being programmes.

So when we see concern over NHS costs, agency staff and work force issues, we believe that it is the investment in staff engagement and well being that serves to remedy these issues as the root cause of crisis.

We invest in our staff and students to empower them to drive the service forward, feeling both valued and engaged. Their well being means that the service can thrive. We would encourage you and your teams to invest in staff learning, staff well being and continued professional development.

This is the key to real change. This is what we do.


Posted on June 12, 2015 .