COMMERCIAL: A service to manage locum recruitment across nine South West hospital trusts will be managed by the Accident and Emergency Agency, HSJ can reveal.

The group of trusts hope the contract will bring down the cost of hiring locum doctors and be a “blueprint” for organisations across the English health service.

Accident and Emergency Agency is a London based company and part of healthcare recruitment group Asclepius. It will run the South West Managed Service on behalf of the consortium in a bid to save at least 15 per cent on the costs of recruiting locums.

The nine trusts in the consortium are:

  • Dorset County Hospital Foundation Trust; 
  • Northern Devon Healthcare Trust;
  • Plymouth Hospitals Trust;
  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust;
  • Royal Devon and Exeter FT;
  • Salisbury FT;
  • South Devon Healthcare Trust;
  • Taunton and Somerset FT; and
  • Yeovil District Hospital FT.

Depending on how much they currently spend on different pay grades, some trusts may be able to make savings of up to 26 per cent on their locum bills, the consortium has said.

The company will supply the trusts with doctors and dentists from a pool of temporary workers, and manage approved subcontractors.

The two year contract, worth £15.9m, has attracted interest from health ministers Lord Howe and Dan Poulter. There is also an option to extend the contract for a further two years.

The ministers have asked the consortium to send them briefings about how the region-wide service will work, according to a note posted on the Centre for Procurement Efficiency website, an online portal for NHS procurement professionals.

Andrew McMinn, Plymouth Hospitals Trust chief procurement officer and project lead, told HSJ last month he hoped the contract would act as a “blueprint” for the rest of the country in managing locums.

HSJ can also reveal that a similar tender for agency nurse recruitment has also been given the go ahead by the consortium. The tender process is planned to start in August.

It is anticipated that any contract will commence from April next year, said Mr McMinn.

Speaking on behalf of the consortium, he said: “It’s fair to say that this supply market is changing week by week.

“The temporary labour supply chain is proving particularly challenging for all healthcare providers, be that public or private. The great thing about the public sector is that it does work together when required.

“The South West trust locums collaborative agreed that a regional approach was necessary, all things being considered, particularly if we were to maintain the quality of locums, maximise fill rates, manage supply risk and minimise cost impact to all members.

“Although we have been successful in awarding the contract to what we think is a high quality service provider, the hard work now really starts for all involved.”

Adam Bailey, managing director of Accident and Emergency Agency, said: “The South West Managed Service consortium is a truly unique project and we’re honoured to be part of it. 

“With increased waiting times, growing financial pressures and new budgets being formulated, the one thing most people can agree on is that the NHS needs a true recruitment partner with expertise in staffing solutions to help ease the ever increasing burden of low staffing levels and escalating costs.”