Career advice

Your local nurse bank can offer all sorts of options

Joining the nurse bank can give you control over your hours, and open up opportunities to try working in a variety of settings

For anyone who would like more say about when they work, or to earn some extra money, working as a bank nurse could be the solution. Employers are constantly on the lookout for registered nurses who can join the bank and fill in shifts in a wide range of settings.

The demand for bank staff is increasing as trusts face a shortage of nurses and the high cost of agency staff. The number of nursing hours requested from NHS Professionals’ bank, which has more than 60,000 workers to help fill more than three million shifts every year, has doubled in the past three years.

To meet this demand, NHS Professionals, which works with 60 trusts, has recently been running a campaign to encourage nursing staff to join their local trust’s bank. It is targeting nursing staff who are substantively employed by their client trusts, but would like to work additional hours. The organisation is also looking for nursing staff who may have recently left a trust if, for example, they have just retired or given up work to have children, to return by working flexibly through the bank.

NHS Professionals says that bank staff have the first choice of additional shifts, have complete control over when they work, and are paid weekly.

Gigo Koyikkara, a mental health nurse from Devon, chose to join the bank full time, five years ago, because of the flexibility it offered him. This means he can pick and choose shifts that fit with his wife’s working pattern, so they can divide childcare for their two young children. He mainly works for Devon Partnership NHS Trust and has to complete the same mandatory training as other staff, and can also access continuing professional development.

‘I now get to spend more time with my family, and they are happy, so I am happy,’ Mr Koyikkara says. ‘I also work in a variety of places and get a lot of different experiences. On a Monday I may be working in forensic care, and on Tuesday with people with learning disabilities. I would not have that if I worked on one ward.’

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London runs its own bank which fills around 5,000 bank shifts every week. It has thousands of nurses on the bank, but is always keen to hear from more.

Head of temporary staffing Mary Hardman says that nurses on the bank include those who want flexible working, nurses who have retired from their main job, those who want their work to fit around childcare arrangements and school holidays, and nurses who will work full time on the bank but want to take long holidays.

Bank staff receive mandatory training and continuing professional development, can still access the NHS pension and receive holiday pay. Their pay is similar to those of other staff, Ms Hardman says.

One potential drawback for bank staff is that they don’t belong to a team, so the trust has recruited a band 7 nurse to support nurses who only work this way.

First choice of additional shifts

Control over where you work

Weekly payments

Experience in different clinical settings

Access to NHS pension and holiday pay

Opportunity to try a specialist area before making a career move

‘For the trust it is cheaper than agency staff, and we know that all bank staff have completed mandatory training and received the appropriate induction,’ she says. ‘[With] temporary nurses, there are more likely to be concerns relating to agency staff, which may not be their fault, but sometimes they come in cold and don’t know the trust like bank staff do.

‘We get more continuity with bank staff, as they often go back to the same ward. It is also a good recruitment method for the trust, as staff who start on bank will often be recruited into permanent positions.’

Trusts are keen to use bank staff to help reduce the crippling costs for agency staff. NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens last month announced to the Commons Public Accounts Committee that the agency bill is predicted to hit £4 billion in 2015-16.

NHS Professionals head of workforce insight Maria Nicholson says that the bank is increasingly attracting agency staff and bank staff go through a recruitment process based on NHS values. They can then check online for shifts in their area. This system also ensures nurses don’t work too many hours and breach European working time directives. ‘It is important staff have a work/life balance,’ she says. ‘I worked as a bank nurse for five years and I loved it.’

Paul Glover, a healthcare assistant from Plymouth, works about five or six extra bank shifts each month at the trust where he works, full time, on a neurosurgical ward.

He likes the fact that he is paid weekly for the extra work and says it allows him to experience services elsewhere in the trust.

‘I went on bank for extra income, but also as an opportunity to broaden my horizons,’ he says. ‘If you are thinking of changing jobs then bank shifts are a great way to sample different specialties’.

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