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U-turn over agency ban

NHS Improvement has agreed to pause plans to prevent nurses working for an agency if they have a substantive contract

The RCN is celebrating a u-turn by NHS Improvement (NHSI) over plans to prevent nurses working for an agency if they have a substantive contract.

The changes, due to take place from 1 April, were set to affect most NHS trusts in England as part of moves to limit NHS spending on agency staff.

Under the new rules, NHS nurses who wanted to work extra hours would have needed to join their trusts staff bank or work overtime.

'On pause'

A letter from NHSI chief executive Jim Mackey to RCN general secretary Janet Davies stated: The instruction has caused uncertainty for providers and created challenges for some of your members.

This was not my intention and I can confirm that NHS Improvement is pausing

The RCN is celebrating a ‘u-turn’ by NHS Improvement (NHSI) over plans to prevent nurses working for an agency if they have a substantive contract.


The NHSI proposed plan to limit spending on agency staff has now been 'paused'
Picture: iStock

The changes, due to take place from 1 April, were set to affect most NHS trusts in England as part of moves to limit NHS spending on agency staff.

Under the new rules, NHS nurses who wanted to work extra hours would have needed to join their trust’s staff bank or work overtime.

'On pause'

A letter from NHSI chief executive Jim Mackey to RCN general secretary Janet Davies stated: ‘The instruction has caused uncertainty for providers and created challenges for some of your members.

‘This was not my intention and I can confirm that NHS Improvement is pausing until further notice. To be clear, this pause means trusts will not be expected to follow this instruction from 1 April.’

The RCN has been invited by NHSI to participate in the drafting of new rules around the use of staffing agencies.

Mr Mackey also wrote to NHS trust chief executives, directors of nursing and medical directors confirming the change.

‘We will review the timeline and system preparedness for any further changes to this policy and will engage with the system and staff as appropriate.’

Outcomes

The RCN warned the proposed ban, which it described as punitive, may have forced NHS nursing staff into the private sector or see their earnings drop by an average of £1,150 per year.

The college had sought advice on the legality of the change and advised its members they were not obliged to join an NHS bank. 

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘This was an ill-conceived plan by NHS Improvement and today’s U-turn will be welcomed by nursing staff across the country. It is right to withdraw it and we will be seeking urgent meetings before any further plans are drawn up.

‘For many NHS nurses, the only way to ensure a decent level of income is to undertake additional work through an agency. They would not have to do this if NHS pay had kept pace with inflation in recent years.

‘The voice of RCN members forced NHS Improvement to recognise the instructions were unfair, punitive and damaging to high-quality patient care. We are pleased that NHS Improvement has agreed to work with the RCN to get this right.'


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