NHS hiring teams must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when a proposed ban on employing its own nurses through recruitment agencies was overturned last week, just one day before it was due to come into force. As a potential staffing crisis was averted at short notice, the U-turn revealed an underlying issue which was also highlighted in a new report from the Lord’s Select Committee.
The lack of a comprehensive long-term strategy to source and secure a skilled, trained workforce is the ‘biggest internal threat’ to the NHS’s sustainability according to the report.
Following the potential disruption of the new IR35 rules applied to the public sector, the report also recognises the impact of pay restraints and bureaucracy on staff retention and recommends a review into this area.
How did it reach this point?
In 2016 an estimated £1.7 billion was spent on agency workers, the majority on nursing staff who are often permanent NHS employees. This work attracts a higher rate of pay for nurses than working through an internal staff bank. While the ban aimed to reduce costs by 25%, a poll from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found that 40% of nurses would seek alternative work in the private sector if went ahead and around a quarter would reduce their availability to fulfil additional shifts.
Steps are in place to offset this issue as follows:-
- The introduction of a fast track nurse training programme, to boost nursing recruitment and place more emphasis on the hiring, retention and training of senior nurses to reduce the reliance on agency staff.
- Enable nurses to work across a region rather than be held back by organisational restrictions.
- Plans are also underway for a new recruitment programme to attract up to 2,000 former nurses back into the profession.
However, with this issue, as with the others that affect the NHS’s ability to recruit, the key is to implement effective data driven recruitment strategies tailored to meet its unique needs. This is the only effective way to provide true transparency and clarity into the following problematic areas:-
A culture of diversity : Issues relating to diversity and inclusion within NHS recruitment processes have not yet been resolved. For example, new research found that no black male graduates were recruited into the NHS’s Leadership Academy in London in 2016. Data driven recruitment reduces the potential for unconscious bias in hiring by ensuring that candidates are assessed on their suitability for a vacancy, rather than on their social or educational background. Algorithms in recruitment software have also been proven to make better recruitment decisions than HR.
GP recruitment : A shortfall of almost 10,000 doctors is predicted by the Royal College of GPs by 2020. In 2016, the government announced its aim of increasing medical school places by 25% to offset the impact of Brexit and the ageing population and enable NHS England to recruit more ‘home grown’ doctors. A further scheme, which we noted in a previous article is under way to recruit GPs from across Europe. Data in recruitment analytics enables hiring teams to review the effectiveness of these policies as well as identify the greatest potential skills gaps so resources can be focused in relevant areas. As the free movement of migrant labour is still in doubt and proposals to allow specific sectors access to EU workers are yet to be agreed, HR technology and analytics will enable improved workforce planning. Advorto offers NHS specific recruitment software tailored to the unique requirements of NHS trusts to achieve these goals.
Work on culture : Progress to overcome the image of a culture of bullying and harrassment is slowly being made. New proposals allow jobseekers who feel they are being discriminated against in employee selection to launch a claim for compensation through a tribunal. This offers protection in hiring for former NHS employees who may have been ‘blacklisted’ as whistleblowers on staffing records. The use of anonymised CVs and removal of filters through applicant tracking systems, will again remove the potential for bias within initial screening. Technology and efficient data driven recruitment processes are also vital in their ability to identify issues with staff retention. High levels of turnover among new hires also indicates an underlying problem. To improve retention extend your hiring process to incorporate onboarding within the overall candidate experience. Advorto’s recruitment software meets the unique challenges faced by the NHS in both candidate selection and the retention of its new hires.
Better workforce planning : Historical hiring patterns stored in your recruitment data enable individual Trusts to create more effective talent acquisition strategies and support future workforce planning. Rapid hiring is essential to attract and engage with qualified candidates in a competitive labour market and supports fast-tracked nursing recruitment programmes. Tag close match applicants to move them quickly through your recruitment funnel and monitor their progress through to employment.
Advorto works with NHS trusts to identify and resolve critical hiring issues, including:-
- Sifting imported applications with full auditing to confirm relevant checks have been carried out, ready for inspection by the CQC.
- Provision of flexible and cost-effective configuration to meet the requirements of frequent regulatory changes. Importing candidates applying via NHS Jobs into a compatible system.
- Provide an interface with the electronic staff register.
- Facilitate rapid approval and posting of vacancies.
Contact us today to discuss how we can help your Trust to hire better people faster.
For further insight you might also like to read:-
Talent Management & Retention In The NHS
For an indepth look into the issues affecting healthcare recruitment and strategies to improve recruitment and retention download our special report here .