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Why Are Nursing Agencies Popular with Nurses in the UK?


The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world, employing over 1.6 million people in the United Kingdom ».  The vast majority of its workforce is based in England, with over 351,000 nurses » employed. While working for the NHS is an excellent option for many nurses, temporary work offers many advantages. In this article, I will look at what factors influence nurses’ decisions to register with agencies.

A Choice of Locations is Vital

Having jobs in the right locations helps attract nurses from across the country and increases the number of filled shifts. We looked at our data (Nursing Personnel internal data) concerning the issue and found the following:

  • Visitors from regional cities such as Nottingham increased from 2.36% in July 2014 to January 2015 to 2.95% in the first half of this year. Coventry saw huge growth, rising to 1.23% after recording very little traffic in the July 2014 to January 2015.
  • Northern cities are proving popular, with nurses from Newcastle (2.73%), Manchester (1.76%) and Sheffield (2.3%) among the most engaged users.
  • Cities, unlike regional towns, dominate among sources of potential leads. The Midlands are one of the most popular locations, with Birmingham (6.14%) and Nottingham (3.1%) leading the charge.
  • Surprisingly, northern cities such as Newcastle upon Tyne (2.53%) and Manchester (1.69%), proved to be more popular among prospective leads than Southern cities such as Southampton (2%) and Plymouth (1.38%).

High Pay Rates are Important

Having jobs across a range of locations needs to be matched by competitive pay rates. Take a glance at nursing agency ads and you will notice rates, almost literally, popping out at you. Rates, of course, vary according to bands, professions and locations. You will earn more in a city but the cost of living will be much higher.

What are some good locations for nurses interested in working for high rates of pay? Nursing Personnel investigated this area (Nursing Personnel internal data) and came to the following conclusions:

  • Surprisingly, the Midlands is more popular among nurses looking for high rates than their Southern counterparts (Birmingham 4.75% vs Southampton 4%)
  • Nurses in smaller towns are more interested in rates at hospitals close to them. Scarborough (2%) and Swindon (2%) are as equally popular as Nottingham (2%) when it comes to the level of interest in rates.
  • London does not have an overall popularity in rates among nurses. Only 10.6% of nurses were interested in rates in the capital, suggesting a range of locations and rates are more attractive to RGNs registering at agencies.

Great Support is Essential

We recently ran a poll on social media to ask ‘what attracts you to nursing agencies?’ ‘Great support’ was the answer we got back ». Nurses looking at an agency with great locations and rates need the support to back them up, ensuring they can get booked into shifts quickly and easily.

Why Framework agencies are changing the market

Nurses looking to register with agencies should consider registering with framework agencies before signing-up elsewhere. Agencies on the national framework are highly regulated, with regular audits performed to ensure they are adhering to strict audit criteria.

Framework agencies aim to protect patients by meeting the NHS CQC standards for patient safety and protect nurses working to CQC best practice standards compliance. Agencies must pass audits otherwise they will not be able to supply nursing staff. They will always, therefore, have to maintain consistently high standards compared to off-framework agencies.

Nurses registering with these agencies will be required to undergo more thorough registration procedures, but the benefit is greater safety for patients at hospitals run by trusts which use framework agencies.

NHS trusts will have to choose framework agencies, increasing the level of available work for nurses. New measures announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in June will bar the use of off-framework agencies. If you want to work for agencies in the future, the only place to do so will be at a framework agency.

This is one of the major benefits of working for framework nursing agencies – for details, see the article: Clampdown on staffing agencies charging NHS extortionate rates ».

Technology may make a big difference to nurses in the future

According to the 2014 Mobile Consumer UK by Deloitte, over 35 million people in the UK have a smartphone ». The figure is 8% higher than 2013 and is growing rapidly thanks to the advent of 4G and free Wi-Fi almost everywhere you look. Technology is the cornerstone of agencies, which are primarily web-based, and rely on websites, apps and other technologies to help retain and recruit candidates. What does this mean for nurses interested in working for nursing agencies?

  • More training will be done online – Aurion Learning » predicts that “In 2019, 50 per cent of all classes will be delivered online.”
  • Your nursing agency app could also be the gateway to training sessions. Aurion » says that “Currently, 74 per cent of people use mobile devices for E-learning.” Your iPad or iPhone could be used instead of a classroom.
  • Having a great social media and blogging presence will increasingly be more attractive to nurses in the future. There are 1.28 billion Facebook users according to Digital Insights », while “23% of internet time is spent on blogs and social networks” – a great agency blog with engaging and original content will always be more appealing to nurses.

 Conclusion: Why are nurses choosing to register with agencies?

The United Kingdom has one of the well-respected healthcare systems in the world. Full Fact says research done by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation indicated “England had 5.8 nurses (including midwives and health visitors) per 1,000 of the population in 2011 according to analysis by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation ».”

According to the latest Care Quality Commission inpatient satisfaction survey, 27% of respondents gave a 10 out of 10 rating » to the treatment received.  Nursing agencies help ensure these high standards are maintained by providing additional staff when and as needed.

Our article has shown that agencies are attracting nurses because of competitive rates of pay and jobs across a range of locations.  Framework agencies offer a high standard of staffing to clients thanks to rigorous audits which safeguard patient safety.

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