Ceasing the use of Agency Nursing/Midwives employed by Off-Framework Recruitment Agencies in Health and Social Care Organisations in Northern Ireland

21st March 2023

The former Health Minister, Robin Swann, outlined plans to reduce expenditure on recruitment agency use in a written statement dated 13 October 2022. Click here to read.

The Chief Nursing Officer, Maria McIlgorm, has also emphasised the importance of reducing agency spend and supporting, developing and retaining a sustainable workforce that is proud to work in the HSCNI.

The Trust recognises and appreciates the contributions of agency Nurses/Midwives and Health Care Workers in delivering safe, effective and compassionate care to our patients and clients. However, the cost of using recruitment agencies and in particular, off-framework agencies is significant and not sustainable.

The primary aim and direction going forward for all HSC Organisations is to increase stability by maximising our own HSC workforce. Where this is not feasible, the use of agency workers will only be permitted if the agency has been placed on the new HSC Agency Workers; Nursing and Healthcare Support Framework. This revised Framework is being finalised and will come into operation shortly. It is recognised that there will be a need for a short phased transitional period to embed the new arrangements. Further details of the new Framework will be circulated when it is finalised by the Business Services Organisation (BSO). In light of the planned changes in the use of agency workers, detailed guidance will be issued in due course.

It is important to note that as part of the revised approach, the Trust will NOT be permitted to use off-Framework agencies.

Further information about how these new arrangements may impact managers, staff working for the Trust through an off-Framework agency and agency workers working for the Trust is being finalised.

Reducing agency spend is the right thing to do, and not just for cost reasons, but we are endeavouring to improve the Health Service. Our staff have told us that excessive agency use is unfair and can impact on morale.

Building up our own workforce is the best way to support better teamworking to ensure safe and effective care and is vital in order to rebuild our health and social care services across Northern Ireland, and so we are committed to working in Partnership to improve and upgrade the use of Bank working, in the first instance in Nursing.

We deeply appreciate the commitment of our substantive workforce and we are determined to fill our vacancies, stabilise our teams and work in partnership with Trade Unions to strengthen and ensure the benefits of working in HSC are promoted and understood by the entire health workforce.