Representing estates and facilities professionals operating within the  



Crackdown announced for estates and admin use of agency staff

Further restrictions on the use of agency staff to fill NHS estates and admin roles have been announced under new proposals released by NHS Improvement. The regulator also proposes to restrict the use of off-framework agency workers in non-clinical and unregistered clinical shifts. 


In 2017/18 estates and admin spent £223 million on agency staff. Whilst some providers have significantly reduced their agency spend in recent years, NHS Improvement says widespread variation remains and believes there is “considerable scope” to reduce this in the highest spending providers. 


NHS Improvement research reveals that around one third of Trusts use agencies to fill estates roles such as cleaners, porters and caterers. About two thirds of these roles are classified as highly difficult to fill through bank staff, perhaps because the skill set required is not available in banks.


In addition, Trusts use agency staff for a high volume of clerical support roles and within corporate departments, including IT, HR and finance, as well as interim cover for senior management roles. 


The agency rules were first published in April 2016 at a time of high expenditure across the NHS on agency staff to reduce this spend and move to a more sustainable model of temporary staffing. NHS Improvement says that since then Trusts have reduced agency spend by over £1 billion. However, since the start of this financial year, the volume of agency shifts has increased due to rising demand.


The new proposals want to see all Trusts stop using off-framework agency shifts for all staff groups in the medium term and for Trusts to use bank or substantive/fixed term workers to fill estates and admin roles. The only exceptions to this will be staff for special projects and specialist skills. Separate rules will also apply for interim very senior managers.


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