Freedom of Information requests have revealed that the NHS continues to rely on vital agency workers to fill staffing gaps in frontline NHS services.

In 2015/16, annual spending on agency staff in the NHS reached a peak of £3.6bn. Following new guidance and rules from NHS Improvement, these spending levels have dropped to £2.4bn.

Agency staff play an important role in supporting the NHS at a time of increasing demand for services and uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on staffing levels.

While the article linked below raises concern over the use of agency staff over longer periods of time (there being one example cited of an employee who has been doing continuous shifts for 13 years), it is often the case that NHS Trusts have little option but to allow this to continue due to:

- the urgency in the demand for a particular shift to be filled; and

- the lack of available staff to take on full-time contracts; and

- restrictions within the contracts of the employment agency that provides the worker. Such restrictions can create barriers to NHS bodies taking on a worker on a permanent basis.

We can support NHS Trusts who need advice about how they can best manage their contracts with employment businesses and agencies to ensure they are managing their workforce as efficiently as possible.