NHS nurses face bans on taking agency shifts to top-up their pay
Health service wants to stop its nurses from taking on agency work in NHS trusts, in bid to drastically curb spending on temporary cover for staffing gaps
Plans to ban nurses employed by the NHS from topping up their pay with agency shifts have been branded a ‘kick in the face’ during the cost-of-living crisis.
The NHS workforce plan announced last month outlines a proposal to stop NHS staff from agency-working and instead only permitting their additional shifts to be undertaken through local banks as the NHS attempts a £10 billion cut in spending on temporary staff by 2036-37. The RCN has described the move as draconian.
Agency nursing shifts can offer better pay than bank working
Currently, a band 5 nurse can expect to be paid between £15-£20 per hour for a day-time bank shift, but can earn far more if booked through an agency.
The plan states: ‘We propose to support NHS providers to develop and implement policy that prevents substantive staff from offering their services back to the NHS through an employment agency, and instead do so through their local collaborative bank.’
It goes on to say use of agencies offers taxpayers poor value for money and evidence suggests continuity of care and the experience of patients and staff is compromised.
Restrictions on agency shifts could fuel NHS nurses’ burnout
Nurses have reacted angrily, warning on social media the move could accelerate a staff exodus from the NHS as people opt for higher-paid agency employment. Others said tight restrictions on the use of temporary staff to cover rota gaps could leave NHS nurses further burnt out.
Louise Gilbert tweeted: ‘In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis this really is a kick in the face for nurses. Dare I ask if MPs are going to be banned from having second jobs?’
‘Tackling nurse pay and staffing would reduce agency spending’
RCN associate director of employment relations Brian Morton said: ‘Tackling the nursing workforce crisis by addressing pay, staffing levels, and filling the thousands of nursing vacancies with substantive nursing staff will reduce spending on bank and agency.
‘This must be the approach rather than NHS organisations taking any draconian measures to restrict the freedom of nursing staff to choose how they earn their living.’
Unison’s national nursing officer Stuart Tuckwood added: ‘Critically, many nurses rely on these shifts to supplement their NHS pay. The most effective way to cut agency costs would be to pay staff better so their NHS salary is enough to live on.’
Use of agencies already restricted for other NHS staff groups
The move follows restrictions placed on agency use for estates and administrative staff in September 2019, with NHS organisations only permitted to use their own employees or bank staff.
NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment.
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