The use of high-value contracting professionals by the NHS has been robustly defended by the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) after an article in the Telegraph decried “rip off” agencies.

Speaking to Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2, ARC Chairman Adrian Marlowe dismissed the suggestion that the NHS should not use recruitment agencies and should employ all its workers directly as unrealistic.

Marlowe said the NHS has pressing staff shortages and needed access to resources that enable it to meet emergency and short-term demands.

“Agencies fill a need in this area, and many health workers and nurses want to work in this temporary way so they have the flexibility to move from one requirement to another, one hospital to another as the need arises,” Mr Marlowe explained, adding that agencies “fill the holes the NHS cannot itself fill”.

He went on to counter charges of agency fees being excessive, explaining that high charges were often driven by the pay rates demanded by skilled temporary professionals and that in every case the rates with the NHS.

Welcoming government efforts to reduce NHS overheads, Mr Marlowe questioned other planned policies, saying that tax relief on travel expenses for some agency workers being scrapped will “reduce flexibility and result in lower net pay for agency health workers”.

Mr Marlowe added that society increasingly relies on agency arrangements because individuals want flexibility and employers need it, and that the notion that everyone should be employed on permanent contracts, as the Treasury seems to believe, is “no longer a reality”.

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