One year on: Minister welcomes agency progress

Date published: 21 May 2024

It’s now one year since the establishment of the new framework for the supply of agency nurses, midwives and healthcare support workers for HSCNI.

Department of Health Latest News image white text on a departmental blue background
Department of Health Latest News image white text on a departmental blue background

In the last 12 months, Trusts have achieved important progress in virtually eliminating the use of off contract nurses, midwives and healthcare support workers.  

The nursing and midwifery framework forms part of an overall plan to reduce agency staff usage across health and social care. The eradication of off contract nurse agency means that all pay rates for agency nurses are now controlled by HSC Trusts and much greater equity with the HSC workforce has been achieved. Through the operation of the framework the premium paid to agency nurses will continue to erode in future years. 

In the previous financial year, 2022/23, £117 million was spent on off contract agency nursing. 

In addition to the strict adherence to the new framework arrangements, HSC Trusts have increased their substantive workforce to create more stable teams.

In July 2023, Health and Social Care Trusts ceased all social work agency usage.

In December 2023, a tender process opened inviting suppliers to join a new framework for the supply of professional and technical, allied health professional, support services, administration and clerical and social care agency workers. It is anticipated the new framework will be live in Autumn 2024. The final stage of the programme will be a focus on reducing off contract medical locum usage, with a new framework planned for 2025.

Health Minister Robin Swann, who first announced plans in October 2022 to reduce expenditure on agency staffing and to eliminate the use of off contract agencies, today welcomed the progress being made. 

He said: “I commend Trusts for their ongoing efforts to reduce agency usage. By reducing dependence on agency workers and focussing our efforts on building a sustainable and consistent workforce, we have reduced agency spend by over £19million in the last 12 months. These savings are set to improve even further once all of the new frameworks are in place.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Off framework nursing agency use is only continuing in relation to specific and separate contractual arrangements in respect of Learning Disability Services in the Belfast Trust and a complex case in the Northern Trust.
  2. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email
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