The unfair demonisation of agency staff

Research from The King’s Fund revealed that one in five hospital finance chiefs believe the incoming cap on agency staff will damage the quality of care provision. According to the directors, the cap could directly affect their ability to keep enough nurses and doctors on their wards to meet the needs of patients, something that is totally unacceptable.

From April this year, the NHS will be able to pay no more than a 55% premium on the salary of a permanent doctor or nurse for a shift. The government and policymakers hope that this will end what they see as agencies ‘ripping off’ the system, and help to plug the enormous holes in the NHS’ finances.  Recent figures suggest that the health service is on track to achieve a deficit of around £2.3bn over the year 2015/16 – and the current regime believes that it can save £1bn over three years by bringing down the cost of locum staff.

However, while this may seem like a sensible way to reduce costs in the short-term, in reality these measures are unpractical and potentially dangerous to patients. The press are quick to portray agencies as being out to milk the taxpayer for as much as possible, but high costs are a reflection of the limited availability of specialists and are not the norm. With so few locum specialists available at a given time, and the NHS and agencies working in a market-driven environment, it is natural that the cost of procuring these professionals will carry a premium.

Another principle reason why agency fees are greater than those permanent employees are the additional costs that  providers incur. When people compare the fees paid for agency staff with permanent staff they are often not comparing life for like; agency charges often include costs like National Insurance and pensions, whereas these are excluded when quoting pay rates for hospital staff. Furthermore, agencies also have to cover their operating costs – meaning that many may struggle to stay in the black with reduced revenues. The resultant unavailability of staff following agencies going out of business would have a huge and dangerous fallout, leading to gaps in care provision to the most vulnerable, and risk patient safety.

Worryingly, the suppression of agency fees could also produce a situation in which specialist staff are also not significantly incentivised enough to perform locum work – particularly in rural areas – which would again cause enormous problems. By putting a cap on agency fees, policymakers are taking a gamble on agencies being able to operate on lower revenues – and turning their backs on framework agreements with agencies that have served the NHS well for the past decade

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Jobs FAQs

What shifts or rotas are available for professional carers?

Our branches have a wide variety of hours and rotas which means it’s possible to find shifts that fit in with your life situation, whether you want a full time role or are just looking for a few hours a week. All that we ask is that you commit to the hours you can do two weeks in advance.

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Six months’ professional care experience is ideal - such as a domiciliary carer, care assistant, homecare worker, support worker or healthcare assistant. However, if you are new to care some branches do offer training leading to care certificates, so please contact the recruitment team to discuss on 0808 239 9716.

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A full clean driving is required for some roles, but not all. Job roles normally state if a driving licence is required, but if you are unsure then please contact the recruitment team on 0808 239 9716.

What pre-employment checks do you do?

To join Prestige Nursing & Care as a professional carer you will be required to apply for a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, unless you are registered with the update service.

We can help you apply via your local branch. When you work with children and vulnerable adults a DBS check is a legal requirement. Find out more about DBS checks:

We also require two professional references, one of which should be your current or most recent employer.

Finally, you will be required to provide proof of eligibility to work in the UK, NI number, ID and proof of address. Your recruiter will talk you through all requirements and support you all the way.

What training do I need to complete before starting work?

You will need to complete both online e-learning modules and virtual training via Microsoft Teams. This is very flexible and can be completed from home as long as you have a compatible device. Find out more about the training we offer.

Is the training free?

Yes, the training is completely free.

Do you offer regular patterns of work?

Yes, our branches offer a wide variety of hours and shift patterns.

Will I be employed by Prestige Nursing & Care?

You would become a member of our team with a contract for services. You would be eligible for things like SSP and holiday, as well as a NEST workplace pension.

How old do you have to be to work as a carer?

You need to be 18 years old to join our care team and there is no upper age limit.

How often will I get paid?

We pay all our professional carers weekly.