With recent Freedom of Information (FOI) research revealing that 90% of NHS Trusts have exceeded spend caps for agency staff, questions are increasingly being raised about the viability of the new rate cap programme.

Troubling still is the statistic that 79% of NHS Acute and Mental Health Trusts currently recruit staff outside of NHS-approved staffing frameworks. Due to various reasons, including location and roles being harder to fill, Trusts are repeatedly having to use a clause allowing them to breach guidelines when patient safety will be compromised and there is no alternative. According to this research, 70,000 shifts have been filled under this clause since the caps were introduced in November 2015.

Whilst the sector has experienced positive progress toward sustainable pay rates, this suggests that initial guidelines eliminating off-framework expenditure – introduced just a month earlier in October 2015 – have not been given enough time to take effect before the rate caps were brought into force.

GRI has always supported the introduction of a rate cap, as we believe the market has got out of control. However, we have recommended using caution regarding trying to push the rate down to a level that is unrealistic in a marketplace where demand is exceeding supply. Our concern was that, as a result of the rate caps, initially even more agency business would end up being in the hands of the non-framework provider, which is totally contrary to what the Department of Health is trying to achieve. In light of this research, it appears that our belief has now been substantiated.

Our CEO Andrew Preston, comments: “Due to a shortage of healthcare professionals, this research demonstrates that some Trusts feel they have no choice but to accept supply from off-framework, unregulated agencies, if patient safety is at risk.

“Our unique position enables Trusts to engage and manage their temporary workforce in a completely different way – providing them with the cost efficiencies, controls and reporting capability demanded by the agency rate cap.

“Through our neutral vendor solution, Trusts can not only ensure a constant supply of qualified, high calibre staff – and therefore continuity of care –  but significant cost savings can be  achieved as a result of GRI’s truly independent position and therefore ability to procure temporary labour for the best possible value.

“Trusts can also rest assured in the knowledge that they are working with a compliant supply chain that is performing against, and achieving, clear Key Performance Indicators – helping to mitigate the risk of legal exposure.”

For the last 17 years, our mission has been to drive best value from the temporary staff supply chain. From our extensive work with NHS Trusts throughout the UK, we have witnessed wide variation in not just pay rates, but quality of candidates and service level agreements. Our proprietary software solution, e-tips®, provides access to real-time Management Information, allowing our client organisations to have full visibility and control of their temporary labour spend and consequently pay substantially less in agency margins.

Through the creation of a level playing field by a process of rate standardisation and fixed pound agency margins, we put a stop to charge variation by Trusts’ agency supply chain – restoring the balance of bargaining power with the Trust not the agency.  Our panel agencies compete on quality rather than price and improve fill rates through rigorously audited channels, streamlined invoicing and timesheet management – ensuring full legal compliance and adherence to the agency rate cap.

GRI is an approved supplier under the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Multidisciplinary framework RM3711 and Non-Medical, Non Clinical Framework RM971.

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