Collaborative approach to medical agency workers

Published: 2 September 2015

A collaborative project involving nine acute hospital trusts from the South West aims to improve fill rates for locum doctors and at the same time reduce the amount spent on agency staff across the region, whilst maintaining safe and effective care for patients.

The South West consortium was formed 18 months ago to establish the best working practice to manage medical agency supply. The key aims of the work were to:

  • Manage the medical agency locum market with the introduction of standardised hourly rates and to ensure continued levels of supply.
  • Harness NHS buying power to secure the best commercial rates.
  • Improve financial governance.
  • Establish an IT booking system which will introduce e-timesheets, and provide Management Information (MI) reporting.

Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust acted in both a project management role, and in a separate procurement lead role for the project contract development.

Laura Langsford, Consortium Project Manager explains: “It was recognised that only by working together did trusts have the best chance to source safe levels of medical locums at affordable rates without comprising on the quality of care delivered to patients.

“It has taken a period of 18 months from project inception to contract start, which has required all nine Consortium Trusts to work very closely together. Through this collaborative approach a cost saving of 10% could be achieved. I am delighted to have been part of this work that should deliver a real change for the trusts involved.”

Dr John Lowes, Medical Director at South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “Whilst we try our best to appoint staff on substantive contracts, inevitably there will be times when locums are needed, particularly within certain specialisms and grades.

“Working in partnership with eight other trusts in the region can help ensure continued safe levels of high quality locum provision to meet the ever changing demands of our Trust, whilst at the same time reducing the amount spent on agency staff.”