A project which will allow London trusts to check cost and quality ratings for staff agencies before they hire them is to be launched in September.

The London Agency Project - which will initially involve 22 of London's 51 trusts - is an attempt by London regional office to bring down the cost and ensure the quality of nursing staff and those working in professions allied to medicine in London.

The project, acting on behalf of the regional office, has already awarded its accreditation standard to 29 agencies. Trusts will be able to find out how agencies are rated against a number of criteria, and use the information to negotiate contracts with the agencies.

The areas covered in the first tranche of contracts have been in accident and emergency services, critical care and operating theatres.

Martin Else, chief executive of Royal Free Hampstead trust and the chair of the project's board, said: 'NHS trusts in London will now have full details about what accredited agencies have to offer in terms of quality and costings.

'We hope to create a more strategic approach to staffing the NHS in London that recognises the contribution of the temporary staffing workforce. We also see this to be the start of a process of developing further opportunities for collaborative working on temporary staffing solutions across the whole of the NHS in London.'