Health minister Lord Warner has announced a scheme to reduce NHS spending on agency staff.
Speaking at a conference in London, he welcomed the launch of the ‘Reducing Agency Costs Project’, a scheme that brings together 30 NHS trusts from across England.
The project aims to reduce spending on agency staff at participating trusts, by identifying and implementing best practice techniques.
Last year the NHS spent about £1.45bn on agency staff, which accounted for just over 5% of salary costs for the health service in England.
Targeted actions to reduce the NHS spending on agency nursing, particularly in London, resulted in savings of £65m last year.
Lord Warner admitted that temporary staff provided an essential service to the NHS by providing care to patients on a flexible basis, but said the cost of agency staff to the NHS had been rising too rapidly.
“It is important that trusts manage their flexible workforce requirements in the most economical and effective way possible and this means reducing spend on agency staff,” he said. “There is growing evidence that demand for often expensive agency staff can be managed downwards through better planning and more the flexible use of existing NHS staff.
“If trusts do use agencies, they should work with those which the NHS’s own purchasing and supplies agency has already developed agreements,” said Warner. “This ensures we maximise the collective buying power of the NHS to drive down costs and raise quality.”