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Progress welcomed on the usage of agency workers in Northern Ireland’s health system

Young nurse in hospital ward

The Department of Health (DoH) has welcomed significant progress towards the cessation of "off-Framework" agency use in Nursing and Midwifery across NI’s health service.


The Nursing and Healthcare Support Framework is a key mechanism in delivering a reduction in agency staff costs incurred by the health service in Northern Ireland. It establishes a list of approved suppliers who will provide agency staff when required at pre-agreed payment rates, set by contract.



The Department of Health and HSC Trusts have confirmed today (Sunday 13 August 2023) as the next key point in the drive to permanently end the use of such agencies. After that date, Trusts will not be permitted to engage “off-Framework” agencies.


The new Nursing and Healthcare Support Framework for the supply of agency nurses, midwives and healthcare support workers was introduced on a phased, transitional basis on May 15 2023.



According to the DoH, "excellent progress has been achieved within this transitional period, with Trusts reporting a reduction in the use of “off-Framework” agencies from 72% prior to May 2023, to 1.5% in July 2023.


The Framework is a key mechanism in delivering a reduction in agency costs incurred by the health service in Northern Ireland. Thirty-three suppliers have signed up to the new Framework.



DoH Permanent Secretary Peter May said:


“I welcome the tremendous progress by Trusts in the cessation of the use of “off-Framework” agencies.


“Reducing the reliance on agency workers is the right thing to do. Building up our own workforce is the best way to ensure safe and effective care and is vital in order to rebuild our health and social care services across Northern Ireland.”

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