The back down by NHS bosses on an edict that would have restricted agency staff working in the NHS has been welcomed by Unite, the country’s largest union, last Friday (the 31st of March).

The union, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said it would have been ‘grossly unfair’ that NHS trusts would not have been able to employ existing NHS staff, hit by continued below-inflation pay increases, as agency staff.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Unite welcomes this statement from NHS Improvement that it has pressed ‘pause’ on this edict which was due to have come into force on 1 April.

“It would have been grossly unfair – after the Pay Review Body (PRB) recommendation this week of a measly one per cent increase for NHS staff – that health workers struggling, in many cases, to make ends meet were denied opportunities to boost their incomes. 

“We hope to work with NHS Improvement and other staff side unions to ensure that already hard-up NHS staff do not suffer further detriment as a result of the general NHS drive to reduce spending on agency and locum staff. 

“The background to this is that the majority of NHS staff has suffered a 17 per cent cut in pay in real terms since 2010. 

“That is why many NHS workers join agencies, work as ‘bank’ staff or volunteer for overtime. 

“While this announcement will be a welcome relief, one solution to this problem is for NHS staff to have their real term pay cuts restored by a generous pay settlement the next time the PRB reports.”

NHS Improvement said that it is pausing until further notice the instruction that trusts should ensure that staff engaged through an agency are not substantively employed elsewhere in the NHS. Normal processes will remain in place.