02nd June 2015

Image: Agency staff worker.Sam Gallaher, Executive Director, Business Development at Skills for Health comments on the Government’s announcement on new measures to “cap” spending on staffing agencies:

“It will be interesting to see the changes the government will make to the agency staffing frameworks. However the key to reducing Agency spend lies in better Workforce Planning, understanding what staffing levels the services require both now and in the future, and making more efficient use of current staffing level by understanding who is working in what department and when. So it’s incredibly important that both the Government and the health care employers recognise that agency pay and frameworks are just one factor in clinical workforce management and deployment.

We know that in reality, to effectively manage the healthcare workforce given sickness, late absences, training etc and provide safe staffing levels for good quality care for patients, agency staff are a vital part of this “mix”. So the key to a successful and financially effective workforce is to invest in readily available and robust workforce planning tools to deliver services with the appropriate workforce that can flex to meet changing patient demand. The result is a reliable, sustainable and efficient safe service where education and skills are maintained and monitored.”

“Workforce planning has historically been done in silo’s, and tended to be a tick box exercise depending on the standard template being used at the time. However, looking at future service developments, patient demographics and other planning tools, it can be an incredibly effective way of understanding your organisational staffing needs. With the integration of health and social care becoming more prevalent – efficient workforce planning is even more important. All this must be achieved whilst monitoring and maintaining the skills and competencies of current staff appropriate to the service and ensuring patients are met by the right person with the right skills at the right time.

It should be acknowledged that many NHS Trusts are already committed to workforce planning and Skills for Health works in consultation with organisations across the UK to achieve good practice in this area. Services such as the Realtime Rostering suite and the Six-Step Methodology to workforce planning and management are very much about moving away from “quick fixes”, and working towards low-cost, long term solutions to the challenges of workforce planning."