Melber Flinn

NHS Price Cap Guidance: who will blink first?


I met a HR Director earlier this week who said “the problem with the new price cap guidance is that its success is predicated on all NHS organisations acting in unison, when in fact we are all inherently competitive and we all want to attract the best talent to our organisations.” And therein lies the problem on both sides of the market. We have a looming strike scenario with the potential implementation of price caps for interims, any NHS organisation willing to override the guidelines and pay market rate for an interim, because they are a performing FT (unlikely) or just desperate for resource (far more likely) will distort the market. Candidates will come to learn that there are two types of clients, those that will pay market rate and those that won’t, and they will be more inclined to hold out for those that do, whilst those clients that don’t might soon be learning the hard way that you get what you pay for.

Candidates have the same dilemma, hold out for market rate, or cross the picket line and take that role at 40% below their usual day rate because its local, they are bored or because they need the income. But if NHS organisations struggle to act in unison and generally procure collaboratively, it’s even more difficult for NHS interims, who are widely dispersed and independently minded. What is not helpful is agencies emailing candidate databases asking everyone to respond if they will work at the new guideline rates or on an NHS fixed term contract. I’m still undecided as to whether that’s commercially astute or just scaremongering, either way its distorting the market and undermines any potential for interims to generally corral around the same position of holding out for market rates. I think we might be in for short term turmoil, but I think a free market economy will ultimately prevail.

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