Chief Nurse Blog – Staffing Partner Friend or Foe?

Hi, I am Lisa Locker, Chief Nurse at Hallam Medical.

I have been a qualified nurse for 30 years and during this time, my posts have ranged from a junior nurse to Board level / Chief Nursing Information Officer and Deputy Nurse Director. I have observed many changes within the NHS and many iterations of workforce plans. One of the most exciting changes in my professional life was working as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, which I began in 2008 and this for me was one of the most significant changes in the provision of timely care for all patients. It comes as no surprise that the latest NHS Long Term Workforce Plan advises that the future of advanced practice and varied clinical roles has never been more critical to delivering care.

As the title of my blog states, I would like to examine the relationship between staffing partners, clinicians, and their relationship with our clients. Both in the National Health Service and privatised care providers in both in the primary and secondary care setting.

Oh, I hear you sigh “A Chief Nurse of a staffing partner telling us how wonderful staffing partner workers are?” 

Yes, you would be right. It would be correct to question any perceived bias, but I am not writing this solely as the Chief Nurse of a staffing partner, but as a nurse who has worked at a very senior level in a large Trust.

I have been the individual desperately looking for staff, on occasion paying excessive rates and then feeling the frustration that the staff received were not what we required. There were either gaps in their qualifications, areas of expertise or actual clinical experience. This was extremely frustrating and at times potentially dangerous, as this pressured and pushed every other member of the team to work differently. Often diluting skills across the workforce, sometimes causing anxiety and animosity amongst permanent staff.

Then their is the issue of pay. My team would always point out the differences between pay rates saying it was unfair and I think at the time I probably was not adequately informed to point out the differences in our staff’s employment rights and conditions and the agency worker’s position. So, I think in all honesty my opinion of working with agencies was probably not that great.

Since starting work with Hallam Medical I have come to appreciate much more, of the many benefits temporary clinicians can bring. Engaging with good staffing partners can provide access to high quality staff with specific skill sets, these can help address some of the specific challenges currently being faced by healthcare providers. Using such individuals allows the employer to avoid excessive demands on substantive employees when gaps occur. This is increasingly important for staff wellbeing, preventing burnout and retaining existing staff. Whilst the immediate benefits of filling a vacant shift may be obvious, these longer-term benefits of using temporary clinicians to avoid longer term issues may not be so readily appreciated.

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, cost.

It is frequently heard comment that staffing partners are overpriced. I would like to challenge that the highly trained individuals are often replacing medical roles and are a very cost-effective way to cover gaps in rotas. In addition, the use of locum clinicians can often assist an organisation and avoid losing substantive staff due to burnout or dissatisfaction with their role due staff shortages. By ensuring substantive staff are not unduly pressured, locum staff can help prevent excessive workloads and aid in the longer-term retention of substantive staff. The longer-term cost saving is often not appreciated.

Before joining Hallam Medical, I had never used their services due to local factors. Had I done so, I may have formed a very different opinion about the use of staffing partners, particularly regarding substantive staff burnout and retention.

So, I bet you are wondering, why did I go and work for a staffing partner?  This a very valid question.

Hallam Medical is run by nurses, who hold both Advanced Practice and Clinical backgrounds, and has a different ethos and upholds values that mean something to me, both as a registered professional and as a carer and patient at times.

The Hallam Medical values of Deliver, Trusted, Resourceful, Care, Team, Positivity and Committed are all qualities that should be at the heart of a healthcare agency that supplies individuals that will be responsible for delivering care to patients. The amazing team work tirelessly to provide the correct clinicians to the correct client with a due diligence which I have not encountered before. They additionally ensure that the core values are upheld in this process.

  • Ensuring they are responsive and caring with both clients and clinicians.
  • Ensuring everyone feels valued.
  • Our clients are provided with the staff they need.
  • Our clinicians are provided with clinical support and the opportunity to reflect on their experiences.

They are an extremely forward-thinking company that really care about the quality of what they deliver which is clear by the emergence of my role as Chief Nurse.

In the short term, my early days at Hallam Medical have displayed to me what good looks like and succeeded in changing my previously negative experience of staffing partner use into an extremely positive one.

I am proud to call myself part of the team.

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