Agency nursing – an obvious vicious circle

Today in the press it was reported that – The Belfast Trust – Northern Ireland’s largest health trust – spent just over £47m in that period on bank and agency staff (see here for full story).  Read that again…£47m…..to cover patches and shortages in services – covering but not providing, I may add. Temporary covering.

This article is related to Northen Ireland, but it can easily be seen in reflection across the UK’s nursing services. I look around most wards within the acute trusts will see lots of agency workers with different uniforms on all working together.  But at what cost, and not just financially.

The true effect of nursing agencies and the impact on the permanent working force can be and is devastating, and if often stems from unhappiness in the workplace.  Consider this situation and see if it sounds like a situation you have witnessed or are familiar with.

‘Changes’ happen within a working area, maybe some ‘streamlining’ of services (I love that phrase :/ ).  Some staff are unhappy and decide to leave, but some are happy and remain. The positions that are currently unfilled are replaced with agency staff for the short term.  The short term becomes longer term. The then happy staff have to work that bit harder due to working with agency staff who are not fully familiar with the environment and roles etc. The hard work becomes more regular, often daily on shifts due to lack of regular staff.

The once happy regular staff become unhappy and job hunt, some may leave. More agency staff are used. The first staff posts who left are filled, but the new staff arrive to an already upset and over-worked team….and they consider looking for another role….  sound like something going on in an area you know?

We are facing what could be the biggest NHS crisis ever, both in the public eye and on the ground within each department.  So, where do we go from here?