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​Collaborative Approach to Medical Agency Workers

A collaborative project involving nine acute hospital trusts from the South West aims to improve fill rates for locum doctors and at the same time reduce the amount spent on agency staff across the region, whilst maintaining safe and effective care for patients.

The South West consortium was formed 18 months ago to establish the best working practice to manage medical agency supply.  The key aims of the work were to:

  • Manage the medical agency locum market with the introduction of standardised hourly rates and to ensure continued levels of supply. 
  • Harness NHS buying power to secure the best commercial rates.
  • Improve financial governance.
  • Establish an IT booking system which will introduce e-timesheets, and provide Management Information (MI) reporting.


Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust acted in both a project management role, and in a separate procurement lead role for the project contract development. 

Laura Langsford, Consortium Project Manager explains: "It was recognised that only by working together did trusts have the best chance to source safe levels of medical locums at affordable rates without comprising on the quality of care delivered to patients.

"It has taken a period of 18 months from project inception to contract start, which has required all nine Consortium Trusts to work very closely together. Through this collaborative approach a cost saving of 10% could be achieved.  I am delighted to have been part of this work that should deliver a real change for the trusts involved."

Mr Paul Lear, Medical Director at Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: "The use of medical agency workers is principally driven by the lack of supply of available substantive doctors to meet demands on trusts. This is particularly pronounced within certain specialisms, and grades. 

"By working in a collaborative way we want to ensure that continued levels of medical locum provision are safe, high quality and meet the ever changing demands from Trusts."

The South West Consortium is comprised of the following 9 NHS Trusts:

1. Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

2. Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

3. Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

4. Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

5. Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust

6. Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

7. South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust

8. Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust

9. Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

The consortium has entered into a new 2 year CCS Framework Contract (RM1570) for a Master Vendor with effect from 1st August 2015. A Master Vendor arrangement allows an agency themselves to supply from their pool of registered doctors, and manage the supply chain from the approved framework agencies.​

The Contract has been awarded to "Accident and Emergency Agency" for a period of 2 years with effect from Contract Start date (01/08/2015), under the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Framework RM1570.  ​