Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have expressed their ‘anger’ over a ban on trusts employing agency nurses whose main employment is in their own trust or another NHS trust.
The new money-saving measures are set to be put in place from 1 April, according to letters staff have received from their NHS employers telling them trusts will only be able to engage staff working additional hours through staff banks and overtime.
New rules from NHS Improvement will mean nurses electing to work extra hours will only be able to do so as overtime or through staff banks. It is the latest in a series of measures, introduced since October 2015, to reduce health service spending on agency staff. In 2014-15, the NHS spent more than £3 billion on agency workers.
In its advice to members facing the upcoming ban, the RCN has reminded staff they are entitled to make whatever employment, bank or agency arrangements suit them and their families.
RCN’s head of employment relations Josie Irwin said: ‘We do not support this agency ban and we were not consulted. We support the right of our members to work in whatever way is best for them and their families.
‘There is no obligation on nurses to join a hospital bank. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that shifts are filled. It is not right that nurses should work for less than they are worth. We will be taking this matter up further with NHS Improvement and the Department of Health.’
RCN professional lead Kathryn Yates said: ‘External agency nurses may need additional support in the workplace as they may be unfamiliar with the organisation and this could impact on the workload of existing nursing staff and in the continuity of patient care.’
She pointed out this could affect patient continuity in primary care and GP practices.
Danielle Tiplady, a nurse who started the ‘Bursary or Bust’ campaign as a student, was among the nurses who expressed their anger over social media, writing: ‘Many of us do agency shifts simply to get by. Now we are banned? Absolutely shocked.’
As neither the RCN or the NHS Staff Council agreed to the ban, now the RCN will be advising staff reps to lodge disputes with trusts intending to prevent members from working in their own hospitals through agencies because they have substantive NHS contracts.
The RCN encouraged reps to find out if their employers are implementing the ban and report back to their local RCN officer. The RCN will keep reps informed of further developments.