It’s sad to say, but for many people the word ‘locum’ now conjures connotations of greedy, overpaid opportunists, desperate to be paid more than their fair share. We have no doubts whatsoever that this is all imaginative speculation, fuelled by Jeremy Hunt’s recent character assignation of agency staff.
As an agency, we’ve been working with locums every single day for quite some time now, and we’d dare to say that we have more experience, knowledge, and familiarity of locums than Mr. Hunt does. We’d bet all of our money, houses, computers, and even our Administration Officer, Lewis, that Jeremy Hunt couldn’t find one greedy opportunist anywhere amongst our great pool of candidates. Instead, what he’d find is a talented bunch who work just as hard as anybody else in the NHS.
Similarly, Mr. Hunt has set about targeting ‘non-framework’ agencies as a band of merry thieves and robbers, pilfering every penny out of the NHS at every possible opportunity. Again, those locums who have worked with QLS will know that this simply isn’t the case. We don’t wear stripy jumpers; we don’t even have bags with ‘loot’ written on the front.
Instead, we believe in supplying the NHS with talented, hard-working locums who give their all to supporting the health service. We’ve discussed the reason why QLS are a non-framework agency in detail in a previous blog post, but it’s easy to summarise; as a specialist agency we cannot provide all staff types across the entire UK.
To see Jeremy Hunt throw us in with agencies that have held the NHS to ransom with over-inflated rates seems a little unfair. We’ve always been honest and transparent about our rates, and why shouldn’t be? They’ve always been fair, and we’re proud of the fact that we aren’t an agency that believes is charging as much as they can as the NHS sits in crisis.
Instead, we formed individual contracts or SLAs with NHS Trusts all over the country to supply them with agency staff at fair rates. It is these contracts that allow us to supply temporary staffing across the UK, and will ensure that we aren’t damaged by the agency caps.
We could adapt our business so that it appears that we could supply all types of staff, everywhere, but the reality would be that we couldn’t.
In 2014, we met with a Cluster Project Manager representing a framework agency that we worked alongside. It turned out, the framework agency was a domiciliary care agency that had twisted and turned information, so they could be awarded a contract to supply AHP and HSS staff into the NHS. They actually had no AHP or HSS locums registered with them, nor were they actively looking to recruit any. It was a little disheartening for us to see that dishonest companies could easily acquire framework status, given our commitment to being an honest, transparent and responsible business.
We got in touch, and soon started supplying our quality locums into their Trust. Interestingly, the framework agency we were working with never requested candidate compliance until after patient contact, something we were strongly against. All of our compliance, for every candidate, is done before a candidate is sent out. It’s important to us that we’re only supplying the NHS with talented, qualified individuals.
We highlighted our concerns in a meeting with the Trust, and the following email was sent out to all Cluster Bank Managers.
When Health Trust Europe published their audit scores for this Trust, we were dismayed to see the comprehensive list of agencies that couldn’t be audited due to no supply. With such pressure on the NHS to deliver quality healthcare, is it sensible to have such a short list of agencies able to supply in a Trust Manager’s phonebook?
It is true that as a non-framework agency, we have the flexibility to change our rates, to increase them as we see fit, but Jeremy Hunt’s assumption that we have done that, or would do, is completely offensive. We understand that the government needs to tackle agencies that do charge high rates and exploit the NHS, but we simply ask that we are judged on our track record, which demonstrates clearly that we are not one of those agencies.
Here’s our pay and charges structure for our locums:
Those numbers are not only fair, they’re far below the standard framework rates. Instead, our locums are being told that their agency is holding the NHS to ransom, something they know isn’t the case.
We’ve had several locums upset and worried about their positions, unsure of whether or not the Trust will continue to employ them as an agency member of staff. We’ve had some of our locums’ contracts end, and be replaced with more expensive locums from framework agencies.
It seems confusing to us, that Mr. Hunt has created a system in which some agencies can simply pretend they supply all staffing types, despite having no facility to do so. It seems confusing to us, that NHS Trusts are being forced to choose staff from agencies that have a higher rate, and it seems bewildering how such a plan was implemented with apparently no consideration of any of these effects.
Here at QLS, we’ve always been committed to supplying the NHS Trusts with quality locums for a fair, honest, and transparent rate of pay. As such, we’re always happy to talk about our position on this. Should you wish to have a quick chat about the agency caps, framework regulations, or any other concerns you may have about the changes, please get in touch.