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Managing and Reducing Bank and Agency Staff in Nursing: Speaker Presentations

The use of bank and agency staffing in nursing is a critical and costly issue for the NHS.  NHS Employers recently stated that “A planned, flexible mix of substantive and temporary staff can deliver cost savings and a high-quality patient experience”. 

Today’s conference focused on managing and reducing bank and agency staffing in nursing through delivering tailored and flexible workforce strategy. This issue will only become more important with the drive to 7 day working in the NHS therefore it is critical that organisations understand where bank and agency staff fit within nursing staffing, skill mix and workforce development overall.

The conference included national updates, practical case studies and extended interactive sessions focusing on the tools, strategies and systems that will help to deliver effective nursing workforce strategy that makes the most of substantive staff through flexible working. The conference also looked at ensuring patient safety when bank and agency staff are used and how organisations can support these staff to ensure high quality patient care.

The conference opened with a Keynote Address from Howard Catton, Head of Policy & International, Royal College of Nursing on ‘Bank and Agency Staff and Patient Safety: The Evidence’. In his presentation Howard discussed:

  • bank and agency staff and patient safety: the evidence
  • improving staffing numbers overall and ensuring the right mix is in place
  • will we always need bank and agency staff?
  • nurse staffing levels and patient safety: should there be guaranteed staffing levels?

In 2005, Howard Catton was appointed Head of Policy at the RCN and Head of Policy & International in 2010.  His department work with a wide range of stakeholders, including government and think tanks, on the development and implementation of policy at home and overseas to ensure nursing influence and voice.  The department also leads on supporting the RCN’s sister nursing associations and alliances internationally.  Howard was named in the HSJ top 100 Clinical Leaders list for 2015.

In his presentation Howard Catton stated: 

"Why is safe staffing so important? - Right numbers = Safe patients, safe nurses"

"Staffing levels, patient safety and nurse safety - Onerous workloads and chaotic environments: latent conditions creating possibility of errors"

"RCN estimated NHS to spend £1bn on agency nurses in 14/15-  Safe staffing key driver….Spending rose to £3.3bn in 14/15 on agency nurses and locum doctors"

"What are the solutions? - Incentivise bank, Enhance pay, Offer CPD, Offer overtime, Flexible working/shift patterns, Increase student numbers, Nursing to remain on the Shortage Occupation List, Long-term workforce planning (5-10 yrs) and Nurse leadership."

Howard Catton, Head of Policy & International, Royal College of Nursing Full Presentation Click Here

Wendy Matthews, Interim Chief Nurse, Barking Havering & Redbridge NHS Trust followed Howard with a presentation on ‘Implementing the new rules on bank and agency staffing’

Following the tea break Maria Nicholson MSc RN, Head of Workforce Consultancy, NHS Professionals discussed ‘Optimising your workforce to reduce reliance on temporary staff’. Maria’s in-depth session looked at optimising workforces to reduce reliance on bank and agency staffing and included an overview of systems and techniques to support this. Maria also discussed five high impact actions for reducing temporary staff.

Maria Nicholson is a registered nurse with extensive experience in healthcare management and workforce strategy across a wide range of healthcare organisations.  With senior management and operational improvement experience she has delivered success in both Acute General and Mental Health organisations.  Her expertise in workforce solutions, especially in temporary staffing and eRostering, has delivered exceptional cost savings and efficiencies whilst maintaining patient care for Trusts. Maria also has an active interest in nursing management, leadership, quality outcomes and e-health and from January 2016 is an elected Council Member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).  She is a recognised authority on in-house and outsourced temporary staffing solutions and e-technology in workforce strategy tools.

In her presentation Maria Nicholson stated: 

"We have not invested in many organisations how to properly manage"

"If you don't get your roster right, if you don't get your core principles right, then you don't know where the gap is"

"You cannot hold a manager to account if you have not properly trained them"

Maria Nicholson MSc RN, Head of Workforce Consultancy, NHS Professionals Full Presentation Click Here

Paul Healy, Senior Policy Advisor, NHS Confederation continued the conference with a presentation on ‘Reducing agency spend and managing the staffing budget’ discussing:

  • budgets and staffing
  • how workforce planning can support budget management
  • how can we reduce agency spend from a finance perspective?
  • taking time to review how your ward is running from a business and financial perspective
  • tips and advice for clinical staff managing budgets

Paul Healy leads the NHS Confederation’s work on finance and funding and has a background in economic evaluation and comparative research. Last year, Paul fronted a DH-funded project led jointly by the NHS Confederation and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges that looked at decision-making in the NHS and specifically how organisations can balance the need to make savings with the demand to improve quality of care. He led the NHS Confederation’s response to the 2015 Spending Review and continues to work on engaging with the NHS on the efficiency challenge set for this Parliament.

In his presentation Paul Healy stated: 

"We see with the majority of Trusts that have surplus, having better staff engagement and the majority of those in deficit having less staff engagement."

"Try to understand where the challenges are coming from, what are the driving factors?"

Paul Healy, Senior Policy Advisor, NHS Confederation Full Presentation Click Here

The conference continued with presentations from expert speakers who discussed Ensuring bank and agency staff receive the right training, education and support to ensure patient safety, Moving to a 7 day workforce: implications for staffing and How to make the most of substantive staff through flexible working.

Future events of interest:

Nursing Revalidation Preparing for Going Live
Tuesday 2 February 2016 
Thestudio Conference Centre, Birmingham


Masterclass: Nursing Revalidation
Thursday 10 March 2016 
Hallam Conference Centre, London


Demonstrating and Expanding Nursing Competence
Friday 11 March 2016 
Hallam Conference Centre, London


Safe Staffing Summit: Nursing Staffing Levels and Skillmix
Tuesday 12 April 2016 
Hallam Conference Centre, London


A Practical Guide to Developing your Skills as an Effective Ward Manager
Wednesday 18 May 2016 
Colmore Gate Conference Centre, Birmingham



19 January 2016


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