Expert advice

Workforce: agency nurses may be expensive but unfilled posts risk patient safety

With NHS Improvement halting new rules to cut spending on agency nurses, there may be little scope left to make further savings on temporary staff. But nursing shortages mean the NHS still needs them, says workforce expert James Buchan.
agency

With NHS Improvement halting new rules to cut spending on agency nurses, there may be little scope left to make further savings on temporary staff. But nursing shortages mean the NHS still needs them, says workforce expert James Buchan

As a relatively expensive staffing solution, agency nursing is often in the spotlight in the cost-conscious NHS.

In England, the national ‘top down’ approach to limiting agency use has focused on capping the rates of agency nurses. According to NHS Improvement (NHSI), the organisation responsible for implementation, these controls saved the NHS £1 billion between October 2015 and February 2017.

But in its drive to save money, NHSI has been stumbling recently. In February it outlined new rules which would have prevented NHS trusts from engaging agency staff for

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