This week we learned that the NHS has been wildly overspending on medical personnel from employment agencies.
The service has always gone to recruitment agencies to find staff including doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, allied health professionals and more. Often they’re needed at short notice just to cover a shift during busy periods or staff absences.
What’s concerning however, is just how much the NHS actually spends on temporary staff.
Some £3.3bn was spent on staff from private agencies last year, which is nearly double what was spent three years ago. Some of the costs highlighted in news coverage included a doctor being paid £2,200 to cover a 12-hour shift, all from the taxpayer’s purse.
In response to the revelations, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the amounts that can be spent on staffing agencies will be capped, to provide better value to the taxpayer.
It’s important to remember that these exorbitant fees – often in excess of £100 per hour – don’t go directly to the medical personnel whose services are used. Rather, a large portion of the fees go to the recruitment agencies, who may in fact claim more than half of the fee. This is simply for acting as the middleman.
Recruitment agencies are able to take advantage of the need to bring in medical professionals on short notice. Nevertheless, as the largest employer in the medical sector, the NHS has significant bargaining power that it appears not to be using.
You might be wondering why we’re mentioning all of this. The story took our interest as, without tooting our own horn too much, it confirms a few things we at Blue Octopus have been saying all along.
Though we don’t directly compete with staffing agencies (we place candidates on a permanent basis, rather than temporary covers), we reckon these agencies could adopt a couple of ideas from Blue Octopus.
For instance, we offer a highly competitive rate that would be more in line with any organisation’s spending goals. We do this by focusing only on online methods such as job boards and proactivity approaching talent which we know will net results, and by acting as a true HR partner to our clients, rather than going our own way after a placement as an agency would.
We’ve found great success with this approach across all industries and organisations, including many non-profit and government entities (among them four NHS trusts).
So what could temporary staffing agencies do better?
Traditionally, these agencies offer less value for money when you look at what it is they actually provide. As mentioned, they act essentially as a go-between for hospitals or trusts, and medical personnel. They provide organisational structure and a single point of contact, but are less likely to provide ongoing support or cultivate real working relationship of the kind Blue Octopus prides itself on.
It’s also unclear why the agency fee should be tied to the worker’s rate of pay – we only charge for the campaign which you can place multiple candidates from.
If you’re interested in how Blue Octopus can bring its own brand of fixed fee recruitment service to change things in your organisation, don’t hesitate to get in touch!