I’ve been with Clarity for just over four years; having started life at the hard end of agency recruitment before progressing to where I am now, Associate Commercial Director of Clarity’s Managed Services division. During this time, I have witnessed a lot of change within the NHS.
Over the past 18 months, I have worked with over 10 trusts, helping them gain control over agency spend, remove off-framework supply, rationalise their supply chain and build their own staff bank. However, the challenge brought about by Monitor and the TDA regarding agency caps seems to be the most prominent challenge for both recruitment agencies and the NHS in my four years in this industry.
Off-framework agencies that have been allowed to supply into the NHS for many years have driven the rate of locum pay up and escalated commission rates to take advantage of last minute requests. I’ve seen locums wait until the last minute to accept a job because they know, if a trust cannot fill through their framework provider, they will eventually go off-framework; meaning the locum gets the job at a higher pay rate. I don’t mean to tar all agency workers with the same brush, but I’ve seen this happen first hand many times. Conversely, I’ve also seen agency workers take a pay cut because they’re passionate about working in and supporting the NHS.
With the support of my partnership team, we manage the relationships Clarity has with sub-contracting staffing agencies; we currently have 83 framework agencies supporting our neutral and master vend contracts. These agencies are committed to supporting the NHS with good quality, compliant staff at the right price and have helped Clarity support trusts to achieve the November and February agency caps through renegotiating pay and margins. As 1 April approaches, more and more agencies are telling me they will struggle to support and achieve agency caps due to high recruitment and compliance costs associated with locums; there simply isn’t sufficient margin to cover these costs. I have the pleasure of dealing with some of these framework agencies on a day to day basis and it is clear they are dedicated to providing valuable services to the NHS; they have no intention of ‘ripping off’ the NHS.
Off-framework agencies must be removed for agency caps to be implemented effectively. Hence, I welcome the ban on the use of off-framework agencies from 1 April. Many trusts with a high off-framework spend do not know how to remove this without compromising patient safety. At Clarity, we have a proven solution which has already been successfully put into action at several trusts. If you are interested in hearing how we can help, or would like some advice on how to start the process of removing off-framework agency supply, please call me on 07890 554342. I would be delighted to share experiences and/or put you in touch with trusts that have completely removed their off-framework agency spend.