The Managed Service Provider model has a central place in the future of a flexible workforce in the NHS, writes Mike Ruddle

Second to patient care, maintaining a safe, effective and sustainable workforce is arguably an NHS trust’s biggest responsibility. It’s not just the front line - back office and support functions are also critical to make the whole system work.

This challenge has got harder in recent years as demand has risen and shortages have emerged in some staff groups. The pandemic has only increased attention on this area. It’s also sharpened focus on mental health and the risk of ‘burnout’ as substantive staff absorb higher workloads.

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Flexible staffing can be a lifeline in times like these because trusts can draft in flexible workers to fill shifts or take up longer placements, as and when needed. Flexible workers are trained and motivated to hit the ground running and integrate fully into an existing team.

However, as every trust knows, external agency costs can spiral. As an alternative, many trusts operate their own in-house staff banks, providing a more cost-effective stream of staff working flexibly. But many also outsource this function to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) - and I believe this well-established model has a central place in the future of a flexible workforce in the NHS.

Boosting capacity

The MSP takes on the trust’s whole flexible staffing requirement end-to-end. This means the trust no longer needs to co-ordinate work across multiple departments – for example, HR, payroll, procurement, clinical, legal and communications. That’s now the MSP’s job. Also reduced is the trust’s explicit need for resources to ensure ongoing compliance, revalidation and performance standards. Again, the MSP fulfils these obligations. What’s more, the MSP also handles staff queries, escalations and engagement.

Utilising this alternative way to manage workforce frees up what every NHS trust wants and needs: capacity. More capacity helps the trust become more agile both operationally and strategically in the face of rising demand and workforce pressures. The MSP model can also be scaled up regionally so it covers several organisations in an integrated care system.

The MSP model can also be scaled up regionally so it covers several organisations in an integrated care system

With 180,000 bank members, NHS Professionals runs the largest staff bank in the NHS and as an award-winning healthcare MSP, we are proud to offer more than 50 NHS trusts a fully managed flexible workforce service.

We have a close affinity with the NHS itself because we are wholly owned by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and align much of our work with the NHS People Plan. As a result, we truly understand the workforce challenges trusts face in today’s NHS and we have a range of effective recruitment solutions to help solve them.

Our award-winning MSP – the advantages

Our managed service is available to all NHS trusts, including those that already run an in-house bank.

The key benefits of our MSP include:

  • Access to our bank, comprising 180,000 clinical and non-clinical healthcare professionals
  • Local, national and international bank-only and substantive recruitment to help trusts build a safe, effective and inclusive flexible workforce
  • 100% compliant bank, screened to NHS Employment Check standards, with robust clinical governance assurance
  • Structural cost reductions from lower NHSP on-costs, saving between 5-10%, with further reductions in other non-pay cost areas
  • National Service Centre for bank members and trusts, staffed 24/7
  • On-site NHSP operational team, working in partnership with trusts to co-ordinate flexible staffing and react rapidly to changing front line needs
  • Bespoke account oversight, including detailed management information and regular business reviews
  • Best-value agency supply, by increasing bank workers filling agency shifts and reducing overall external agency spend by an average of 5%
  • Innovative CPD and wellbeing initiatives to grow skills and resilience of the NHSP flexible workforce – for example, our Care Support Worker Development Programme
  • Secure booking management system, fully integrated with trust roster, and integrated IT platforms requiring no new investment.

Working differently

The NHS People Plan describes workload as a ‘pressing concern’. It continues: “To address this now, and for the future, the NHS needs more people, working differently”.

We are ready to help trusts address this concern, so both staff and trusts stay safe, positive and agile in the face of unprecedented demand. We have the people, and as a champion of flexible working at scale with a proven track record, we can support trusts to work differently. The MSP is a flexible workforce model and I am delighted that more trusts are embracing it as we look towards flexible working becoming the career choice of the future in our NHS.