A new operating model for workforce

It is likely that each integrated care system would gain from the appointment of a Recruitment Process Outsourcer (RPO) service provider.


The UK’s largest employers rely on a percentage of their workforce working on a flexible or interim basis. They tend to outsource the supply and management of this workforce cohort to an RPO who establishes and controls the supply chain.


RPO solutions help companies to manage their spend on temporary and flexible labour and provide a fully outsourced solution. Experts in the field deliver a tailored solution with benefits that include reduced administration, legislative compliance, cost savings, management information, consolidated invoicing, improved supplier engagement and the ability to challenge the ineffective use of temporary and contract labour. RPO providers have also been instrumental in the continuous improvement, innovation and rationalisation of staffing and supplier frameworks across the globe.


In this case, HR and workforce functions across each trust, healthcare provider and those based centrally across an integrated care system would work hand-in-hand with the RPO provider to evolve the workforce requirement, planning, optimisation, internal communications reporting and stakeholder management.


Working in partnership with these stakeholders and a variety of workforce providers, RPO suppliers take full accountability for the resourcing strategy, improve fulfilment, simplify the recruitment process, reduce costs, ensure compliance and provide complete visibility, whilst finding efficiencies and economies of scale. They would typically work on a gain share with the client on key commercial initiatives.


Bank Partners’ managed workforce solution to the NHS successfully delivers bank management and outsourced staffing services to some of the largest trusts in the NHS. The Bank Partners approach has helped NHS trusts reduce their agency spend by £70 million over a six-year period.


Enabling Bank Partners and other providers to provide a full RPO service would further evolve the existing approach to bank and agency management.


The existing managed workforce approach is governed by rigid framework and trust stipulations on aspects of the resourcing and cascade process. By moving to a full RPO, service providers can take away the complexity and cost of managing the existing extensive list of agencies and would provide a single point of contact for all worker requirements.


There are a few recognised workforce providers capable of providing master vendor services in each of the five core health and social care staffing categories – doctors, nursing, AHP/HSS, mental health and social care.


An RPO, however, will tend to adopt a bespoke resourcing strategy that may differ in each integrated care system. Master vendors have a more rigid construct and will provide a proportion of the supply from their own resource pool and then manage second tiers to fulfil the remaining quota. This approach works well for niche requirements with specialist market expertise, where the master vendor organisation is experienced at building mutually viable strategic supplier relationships and where there is total transparency. It is less successful when any one of these characteristics is missing. Master vendors are operating widely across AHP, doctors (particularly more junior non-consultant grades), in mental health and social care. They have been less successful in nursing.


An RPO will facilitate the management of multiple master vendors or preferred supplier lists depending on the best solution in each region and to complement the collaborative banks.


A master vendor solution is particularly attractive in some circumstances as it provides a single point of contact as well as a niche specialism, ensures adherence to framework guidelines, facilitates the further rationalisation of the supply chain whilst providing the healthcare provider with deep knowledge across a staffing segment.


The RPO approach will drive efficiencies, ensure the latest technology is applied across the whole recruitment process and that supplier management is seamless and transparent from order to invoice. The RPO would typically work with suppliers on a continuous cost out programme.


Sustainability and Transformational Partnership (STP) RPO


Evolving to a full RPO service in the acute care setting is a logical and important next step where there is already an outsourced staff bank. It is an important move towards workforce operating at an STP level, a key objective of the NHS People Plan. The NHS Long Term Plan is clear that integrated care systems should be the main organising unit for health services by 2021.


By adopting an RPO approach to workforce, first at an individual trust level but then a wider STP/Xyla level, it is envisaged that the new Health Education England Regional Directors will work alongside NHS England and the NHS Improvement Directors of Workforce and appoint a dedicated RPO partner such as Bank Partners. This would enable all parties to have a more comprehensive view of workforce requirements and priorities across each region and how these complement service and financial plans.


The illustration in our full report shows a typical example of an RPO supplier structure that would be appropriate across an integrated care system.


Further insight


This is the fifth in a series of seven articles as part of our ‘NHS workforce provision in a new world’ report. Keep an eye on our LinkedIn to access part six, where we look at the use of technology, data science and self-service workforce applications.