Healthcare Staffing: Reframing the Definition of Outsourcing

By Helen Pendlebury, Head of Client Services

outsourcing medical recruitment - litmus

In recent years, outsourcing has had some pretty negative press. Its critics talk about the increasing privatisation of NHS services and say if efficiencies are possible, the NHS should focus on finding them itself, keeping any cost savings to bolster their own budgets.

A very worthy concept, but extremely tough to achieve in practical terms. I’ve spent 20 years solving staffing challenges from within the private sector. I know the teams I work with across NHS trusts and health boards would applaud the idea, but ultimately tell me they just haven’t got the time or resources to properly manage all their staffing operations, and drive the cost savings we can deliver for them.

Traditional outsourcing

In a traditional sense, outsourcing makes sense because it is about aligning people to what they do best. As healthcare staffing experts, we know our teams have the skills to develop and grow staff banks, improve recruitment processes and everything in-between. By managing the staffing side, we free up NHS teams to focus on what they do best; improving patient care and services.

Reframing the approach

What the critics of outsourcing don’t see is that an increasing number of private companies are now reframing the way they deliver workforce solutions.

In the last couple of years, we have radically changed our approach. The focus is now on upskilling front line NHS staff, empowering service managers and rota coordinators so they can continue to reap efficiency benefits in the long term, without our support.

Our on-site teams no longer sit in annexed offices booking locums; they spend their time engaging with the hospital’s own staffing teams, helping them to understand how to avoid escalated rates and plan shifts well in advance based on known patterns of demand. We train them to use new systems and apps to make it easier for clinicians to pick up extra shifts, submit timesheets and get paid. We operate as one team, sharing challenges – and sharing pride in results.

doctors in a meeting

Others in our industry have criticised this too, as from a commercial perspective, it does seem like we are giving away our secrets, by openly sharing our knowledge, skills and people. They have a point, but our NHS is in crisis. The solution lies in working together, incentivising each other with shared goals and living and breathing the definition of a true partnership.

For me the word outsourcing doesn’t really describe the way we work anymore – we manage staffing on behalf of our clients, but we’re in, not out, working alongside our partners to share knowledge and effect lasting change for the better.

As Helen Keller said; “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

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