Demand still grows for agency staff in the NHS and social care
LaingBuisson has launched the 5th edition of its Healthcare Recruitment UK Market Report
In this report, written during the coronavirus pandemic, LaingBuisson estimate the temporary healthcare workforce and recruitment market to be worth £4.32 billion, with the NHS accounting for 70% of the market and the care home sector 14%. While the market’s value has reduced during the pandemic, a swift bounce back is expected owing to record hospital waiting lists.
Steps have been taken in recent years to contain agency expenditure, especially in the NHS, and for the NHS in England, this was formalised in The Agency Rules which placed caps on the amount that could be spent on agency staff. Bank staff were placed outside of these rules. The result has been that the spend on bank staff has cancelled out any saving made on agency spend.
The temporary healthcare staffing sector has also been subject to several employment tax provisions. The most prominent of these is the extension of the IR35 legislation to the public sector in 2017 and to the private sector in April 2021. This has impacted the supply of all temporary workers into the NHS by healthcare recruitment agency. However, there is evidence IR35 rules have not been enforced rigorously enough and as a result, there has been a good deal of bending in the law to enable flexible working of this kind.
The report also covers how NHS Professionals has changed in recent years and its role in driving down reliance on agency supply. There are many reasons, however, why healthcare workers prefer to work via an agency. These include the opportunity to work flexibly, dissatisfaction with the terms of permanent employment in the NHS and the ability to earn additional income. With both the NHS and social care sector facing recruitment challenges and increased demands, it will be interesting to see what steps can be taken to contain spending on agency and bank staff.
Report author, Suhail Mirza, said:
“The past few years has seen the government promise to take steps to resolve staff shortages and levels of agency spend in the NHS. Most recently, this has come in the form of the NHS Interim People Plan in June 2019 and then the full NHS People Plan in July 2020. These promise to improve leadership and create a new operating model for the NHS workforce. The full People Plan also lays out a vision of offering flexibility to all NHS staff alongside developing a culture of inclusion and belonging.
“Whether the NHS People Plan amounts a workforce strategy remains a moot point. However, what is clear is that we still lack a People Plan for the social care sector. Industry leaders are calling on government for reform and adequate funding for social care to enable the sector to tackle the vacancy levels and staff turnover that it has to deal with.
“Given the events of the past couple of years, it is no surprise that the NHS has placed support for staff health and wellbeing at the top of its list of priorities and such action will be key in recruitment and retention in a sector that has been on the frontline and whose staff have endured so much.”