Thursday, July 13, 2006
£0.8bn On Costalot Temporary Nurses
As we've blogged before, the public sector is by far Britain's biggest employer of temporary staff:
"Whereas government employs around 20% of Britain's workforce, according to the Office for Government Commerce, it accounts for 50% of the temporary labour market. The Gershon Review put the overall cost at £12bn pa."
The NAO has just updated us on the position in nursing, where the NHS has long been a major user of temps. In 2004-05, hospital trusts spent £0.8bn on them, about 10% of their total nursing paybill. Which means that, despite all the promises, there's been virtually no progress in reducing dependence.
It matters for two reasons. First, permanent staff are preferred by patients (aka customers) because they provide better care. Second, temps cost more: by using them, the NAO reckons the NHS is wasting £100m pa.
Why is the NHS- and indeed the public sector- so dependent on temps? In part it's the usual poor management story- inadequate planning and weak direction of staff. But more important is probably that national pay scales do not make adequate allowance for regional labour market variations. That's very evident in the NAO's chart showing the regional variation in spend on nurse temps.
London has by far the biggest problem, with nearly one-fifth of the nursing paybill going on temps, compared to just 4% in the North.
No FTSE100 company would even consider relying on temps like this. If they didn't up their pay rates and/or make better use of existing staff they'd pretty soon be heading for the exit. The fact that it's routine in our public services is yet another reason why top-down one-size-fits-all state provision will never ever deliver the standards and value we expect.
Posted by Mike D at 3:32 pm