The professionals: The NHS has set up its own recruitment agency
For decades the word interim was considered a dirty word in the NHS – all too often shorthand for overqualified, costly and a quick fix. But in the past year, the use of freelance senior executives has grown. Now, in recognition of the huge value of short-term contracts, NHS providers have launched their own recruitment service for high-level interim managers.
Set up in April, NHS Flexible Resourcing is a joint enterprise between NHS Employers and public sector interim management specialists Solace Enterprises aimed at placing senior managers in the top tiers of NHS management. And although it has only been going for just over six months, it already has more than 200 associates on its books – including many former chief executives and directors.
Aware of an increasing dependence on interims, NHS Employers set up the service in an attempt to advise trusts how to access expertise and regulate the market. “We felt trusts were not procuring services in a very sophisticated manner,” admits Sian Thomas, director of NHS Employers. “Sometimes they were exchanging paper work with interims that did not meet strict audit requirements. Furthermore there is a huge variance in rates. Trusts using us can now have some idea of who we think is value for money and know that all our associates have insurance and are registered as limited companies.”
A rigorous registration and vetting procedure gives a guarantee of the quality of people being used, adds Rita Sammons, director of Solace Enterprises, which has 15 years’ experience of placing senior managers into the public sector. Any profits go back into research projects.
The launch of the service reflects the move away from a traditional reliance on costly management consultants. Often costing three times as much as interims, they tend to give advice rather than fulfil a hands-on role. Not surprisingly, growing numbers of trusts under financial pressure are turning to specialist interims to pilot difficult projects or deliver innovative solutions.
Sammons and Thomas believe the future for interims with career portfolios is rosy, and predict hundreds of job opportunities over the next couple of years as the NHS moves to bring care closer to patients. Interims, they say, offer good value for money, as trusts do not have to spend on recruitment costs, induction courses or pensions. Increasingly interims will be seen as freelance executive troubleshooters used to drive through change programmes or carry out a service review for trusts needing a “fresh pair of eyes,” they predict. Meanwhile, people with commissioning skills at a senior level will continue to be in demand to respond to the government’s world-class commissioning programme – assessing and meeting the health needs of local communities…