Shifting Perspectives on NHS Staffing Costs and the Role of Agency Staff

Roger Clements - Shifting Perspectives on NHS Staffing Costs and the Role of Agency Staff

Roger Clements, Chief Growth Officer at Matrix, discusses the constant attention being drawn to the NHS’s staggering expenditure of over £10 billion on temporary staff, sparking crucial conversations about chronic staff shortages and the reliance on agency workers.

Amidst these discussions, it’s imperative to integrate broader perspectives into our understanding of the situation. Firstly, it’s imperative to remove the barriers of staff mobility across the NHS. Actually, there are some good examples of NHS England trying to drive change with their ongoing work on the Digital Staff Passport. Some of the early pilots of that scheme across Blackpool Teaching Hospital have demonstrated this is more than an academic theory as the use case has been proven.

So, if we are going to start highlighting the £4.6 billion agency spend then let’s put our weight behind helping the NHS change and implement the initiatives they have started. I believe that to truly address the complexities of NHS staffing, we must expand our focus beyond the mere critique of costs and delve into the underlying factors shaping the landscape of healthcare provision.

This expenditure on agency personnel undoubtedly commands attention. However, I advocate for a shift towards a more nuanced analysis, one that explores the multifaceted reasons behind the prevalent use of agency staff and its broader implications for our nation’s health.

Understanding the necessity of this expenditure is key. Motivating temporary workers to engage with the NHS is paramount, and negative perceptions may inadvertently deter potential candidates, exacerbating staffing challenges.

A critical aspect to consider is how much of the £4.6 billion would have been allocated to permanent staff in absence of agency support. By scrutinising these statistics, we challenge assumptions about excessive spending and recognise the indispensable role agency staff play in bridging gaps within our healthcare workforce.

While the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan offers hope for future resilience, short-term solutions remain elusive, with spending projected to rise. The temporary healthcare recruitment agency sector, valued at £5.1 billion, along with the £5.8 billion spent on bank staff by NHS England, underscores the magnitude of the challenge at hand.

To address this complexity, it’s essential to adopt a broader perspective. Discussions should transcend fixation on agency spend and emphasise the imperative of filling critical workforce gaps. By reimagining the NHS workforce plan as a Caring Workforce Plan, encompassing diverse care providers and continuing the work on Digital Staff Passports, we can unblock systems and enable seamless staff mobility, fostering a more cohesive and efficient care ecosystem.

In conclusion, a holistic approach is imperative. Let’s move beyond mere scrutiny of costs and foster a deeper understanding of the root causes, working collaboratively towards a solution that ensures the long-term health and stability of our healthcare system.

More Information:

For further information on Matrix Workforce Management please visit:

Public Sector Focus