Is the NHS ripped off by agencies or its own workforce planning?

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt pitted the NHS against ‘rip-off staffing agencies’ last week in a bid to save the health service millions of pounds.

But his announcement of new rules on how NHS trusts use staffing agencies in England, including a cap on agency staff spending for trusts who are in financial difficulty, quickly prompted criticisms.

Included in the package of measures, a maximum hourly rate for agency doctors and nurses will be imposed on trusts in financial deficit and all NHS employers will be banned from using agencies that have not been approved.

But Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the recruitment industry in the UK, argues that Mr Hunt is ‘scapegoating agencies for the NHS’s own mismanagement of workforce planning’.

Safe staffing

RCN general secretary Peter Carter says more detail on the government’s plans is needed to answer questions such as how the maximum rate will be set. He cautions that the plans for a spending cap must not


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