How NHS procurement plans could impact locum staff

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These days, you can’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV without catching a glimpse of a news story hailing the incredible debts of the NHS and the undoubted financial struggles that lay ahead for our health service; with prominent think tank the King’s Fund even predicting a complete monetary crisis during 2015/16, if not sooner. Add on top of that pressures to hit care targets and deal with raising patient demands, and it is evident that hospitals have their work cut out for them.

Tightening the purse strings is an obvious necessity, yet how can this be done without impacting on providing excellent patient care and high quality services? Dr Dan Poulter, the undersecretary of state for health services believes that new scheme ‘Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care’ can give the answers, focusing on re-working non-pay expenditure to make money matters more efficient within the healthcare system. Currently, the NHS is reported as spending a staggering £20 billion each year on goods and services, which account for 30% of the total operating costs for each hospital.

How does this affect locums?

The scheme identified that the NHS spends a whopping £2.4 billion on non permanent staff, although there are great variations between trusts. Dr Poulter has expressed that he strives to cut the non permanent staff bill down by 25% by the end of 2015/16, reducing the current spend, which sits between £1 billion and £2 billion. High levels of sickness and absences can both contribute to high non permanent staffing levels, however the Better Procurement plan points the finger at varying HR and procurement policies and practices lacking uniformity as the real culprit for overspending in this area.

Despite the national average of a temporary work force per trust being 4%, the report found that some trusts were hitting as high as 11.9% or 10.4% between 2009 and 2012, meaning that current rates have to at least half. Interestingly, the figures show that if all trusts currently employing over 4% scaled back their spend, the NHS could save £75 million. Ramp this up to ensure every trust hits 4% on the head and the savings could boost to an unthinkable £230 million.


How will trusts cut non permanent staff spend?

Although the NHS wishes to reduce locum staff spending, the demand for experienced and qualified medical professionals has not diminished in the slightest. It isn’t necessarily the number of staff the NHS is looking to amend, but more the processes and practices that are in place; encouraging excellent communication between HR and procurement departments as well as creating more succinct relationships with framework organisations (the Government Procurement Service for example influenced a spend of £2,200,000).

Methods such as demand management; fine tuning bank staff arrangements and e-rostering systems have all been mentioned as the NHS strives to use the most appropriate purchasing arrangement available to get departments working together as a collective. With the UK’s ageing population living longer, more doctors are needed every day to meet increasing demands for clinical care, and Total Assist Group are here every step of the way to preempt pressure points and help ease heavy workloads with a pipeline of highly qualified locum staff. We work keenly with NHS trusts to find rates and processes that work for them, as we appreciate what a valuable service our locum medics provide. We are here to assist our valued clients to realise cost efficiencies, whether through simple consultation or in depth demand management and managing the service of  the temporary workforce to work towards these savings.

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