The interim healthcare market in 2017: Key statistics (1/2)

Since January last year found myself saying to candidates and clients alike that I expected we would see a reduction in the overall size of our candidate network in 2017. This was based on an amalgamation of anecdotal evidence. Messages from the centre to deter organisations from using interim resource have been frequent and growing in volume, and with the IR35 legislation change confirmed in December 2016, we started last year with many candidates saying it was time to consider their options. It was looking harder to find opportunities, and the roles out there were paying less in gross terms and even less in net. When pushed I was guesstimating that 10-20% of candidates would leave the interim market in 2017.

But was I right? Around September time we made a note to run some reports in December to see exactly what had happened to the size and composition of our candidate network in 2017. Firstly to clarify the parameters, Melber registers candidates who operate in any professional function, between afc 8a and VSM seniority levels, and they must have NHS experience. I’d love to say we sometimes place off sector candidates into the NHS but the reality is that we don’t – there is no client appetite for it. We don’t register permanent job seekers, as we don’t do permanent recruitment.

In January 2017, we had c. 1300 candidates registered on our system. In an audit carried out in December we identified 60 candidates who during the course of the year had gone into permanent employment, 14 had retired, and 13 had become “inactive” interims, which in our parlance means they might be pursuing academia or consultancy, but either way, they were declaring themselves no longer interested in working as an interim for now.

That’s a total of 87 candidates who via one door or another, left the interim market in 2017. On the face of it is a low percentage at 6.7%. However, the reality is that percentage will probably be quite a bit higher. Of the 1300 we spoke to 1033 across the course of the year. What about the other 267 you might ask? Well for a combination of reasons we won’t speak to all candidates with the same regularity. Those 267 might be more peripheral to our core business areas, their search parameters might be more narrow, they might usually source all their work direct, or perhaps they just didn’t return our calls. But 87 out of 1033 of course is much bigger percentage – 8.4%. And even then the number of candidates who have gone permanent in 2017 will probably be higher, as there might be candidates who we last spoke to in August 2017 and they went permanent in the last 4 months of the year.

The perfect experiment would be a text or email poll on the 31st December to all 1300, but we’re not big fans of mass mail type contact.

Either way, one thing is for sure – supply has contracted in real terms in 2017, and relative to previous years it has contracted even further. I have been in the interim healthcare market since 2010, and when the market was really booming in 2013 and 2014 we would deal with 5 or 6 new candidate registrations a week. The backstory was often the same – beleaguered middle managers and execs working excessive hours and under constant pressure. Why not come into interim market where you can choose who you work for and with, have an end point, avoid the politics and earn more money. And of course we reassured them about their hopes and expectations – “come on in, the water’s lovely”. What we very rarely saw in those days were interim managers taking permanent jobs. Why would you, when opportunities were plentiful and rates were good? I wish I had done the same analysis in previous years to illustrate the contrast in an empirical way, but alas I didn’t. We will however run the same analysis in December 2018 and I will report back in a year.

And a higher number of interim managers going into permanent employment is just one indicator of poorer market conditions, I could pick a number of others, such as average rates, requirement volumes, conversion rates, client spend on temporary resource, and contract types to name but a few. In part 2 of this blog, I will discuss some of these other indicators, and also provide a detailed summary of Melber Flinn’s business performance across the year.