Agencies struggling to find nurses for temporary shifts

Survey of recruitment firms reveals lack of candidates to meet demand 

Despite high demand for temporary staff in the healthcare sector, recruitment agencies are finding it difficult to find people to fill vacancies, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Its latest monthly survey, which questioned 400 recruitment and employment consultancies in the UK, shows that healthcare was the sector with the strongest increased demand for temporary and contract staff. The rate of hiring permanent staff in the sector was at its slowest since September last year.

In a separate REC survey of 77 recruitment firms conducted last month, 87% said that since caps on hourly rates paid for agency staff were introduced in November last year, finding healthcare professionals willing to fill temporary vacancies in NHS trusts had become more difficult.

From April this year, the maximum amount that trusts can pay for agency staff is 55% above the basic rate. NHS Improvement has also set ceilings on the total amount individual trusts can spend on agency workers.

The REC survey of 77 firms found that 63% expected agency nurses and locum doctors on their books to now focus on the private sector, while 31% thought healthcare professionals might leave their professions altogether. Just 3% expected healthcare professionals to take up a permanent role in the NHS.

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: ‘Everyone knows that efficiencies have to be made in the NHS but, rather than a considered plan to improve staffing, we’ve seen a policy that is myopic and ill-conceived.’

The Department of Health has previously stated that NHS provider spending on agency staff has been rising year-on-year and that this contributes significantly to the deterioration of NHS provider finances. It said the caps will ease the financial pressure on the health service. 

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