WORKFORCE: A foundation trust is considering paying nurses enhanced hourly rates to attract them back from agency work.

Surrey and Borders Partnership Foundation Trust says any enhanced payments could be phased over 6-12 months, and would lessen the impact of moving out of temporary working.

Lynn Richardson, HR director at the trust, said: “We are exploring a range of measures to reduce our spending on agency shift cover for qualified nurses and certain therapy roles, and increase the overall proportion of our pay that goes to substantive workers. We are considering whether it would be possible to match the hourly rate offered by the agency in some instances.

“We are also exploring how we can retain employees who are ready for a promotion but for whom we do not have a higher banded role to offer them. We recognise that it makes much more sense to offer staff opportunities for progression and to retain their skills and knowledge, rather than paying for an agency worker while we seek to recruit.”

The trust said the enhanced pay scheme is at an early stage and details have still to be discussed – although board papers suggest it has been costed and would be aimed at those who have left to join an agency because of the higher rates available.

Ms Richardson added: “While we’re keen to offer incentives to recruit and retain new staff, protecting the interests of our substantive workers is a top priority and any new measures would have to be thought through very carefully so that they are not open to misuse.”

Currently agency staff make up less than 12 per cent of the trust’s workforce spending. However, board papers show it has a 17 per cent vacancy rate and finds it difficult to attract sufficient band 5 applicants.

The rates trusts are meant to pay for agency staff are already capped at 55 per cent above NHS hourly rates to reflect “run on” costs. However, agency staff usually get higher take-home pay as these run on costs include pension contributions made by the employer and provision for other benefits.

HSJ previously reported that Oxleas Foundation Trust was offering band 5 nurses higher take-home pay if they opted out of the NHS pension scheme. This was aimed at nurses who had gone into agency work.