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Capping agency nurse hourly rates could 'backfire', warns RCN's Janet Davies

Plan neglects wider causes of the NHS financial crisis, college's general secretary says

Moves to cap the hourly rates of agency nurses could backfire, RCN general secretary Janet Davies has warned.

A rate cap neglects the root cause of the NHS financial crisis caused by spiralling patient demand, flat-lining budgets and the failure to train enough nurses, says Ms Davies.

It follows news that agency staff should expect to be no better off than their NHS colleagues after Easter 2016, when trusts will be blocked from paying more than full-time substantive staff rates unless patient safety is at stake.

Ms Davies said the plans must not be seen as a cost-cutting exercise and wants the savings converted into permanent nursing positions.

She said: ‘While capping agency charges may look like firm action from the government, it will not resolve the huge financial deficits trusts are facing because of spiralling patient demand and flat-lining budgets.'

A rate ceiling for nurses, due to be phased in from November 23, will be up to 55% above national pay scales to cover pension contributions, national insurance, holiday pay and admin, with the aim being to encourage agency staff to return to permanent work.

The target is to reduce NHS agency spending by £1 billion over three years, ending some agencies’ practice of charging £1,800 for standard nursing shifts.

Monitor and the Trust Development Authority are consulting on the changes.

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