The brokers are charging the NHS £500m a year in fees for agency staff.
The massive bonus, on top of the sky-high salaries paid to locum doctors and nurses, can be revealed today by an audit of the Mail. Campaigners called for action to be taken to prevent companies “gorging on NHS money”.
Employees of one agency were rewarded for a profitable year with a free trip to the Caribbean, where they were photographed having cocktails at a hotel.
Recruitment firms have boasted record profits due to increased demand during and since the pandemic.
Brokers are charging the NHS £500m a year in fees for agency staff
A single director pocketed more than £500,000 last year.
The NHS is facing the biggest staffing crisis in its history, with a shortfall of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives.
Substitutes can be called up to fill any gap in the rotation, from a single day to a month, and even longer.
Sipping cocktails while the profits were skyrocketing
As NHS frontline staff risked their lives in Covid wards, these ‘elite’ employees at a major surrogate agency sipped cocktails on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Caribbean.
Activists have claimed that this image lays bare the “lavish practices” that “add salt in the wound” of healthcare workers who sacrificed everything. Cook Recruitment Group made a £1.1m profit last year thanks in part to recruiting locum doctors at more than 200 UK hospitals.
These sums may explain how you can afford to send your ‘Elite Club’ members on a luxurious week-long annual vacation.
Directors David Cook, his brother Glenn and his wife Jenny have overseen record profits since the start of the pandemic as demand for workers has skyrocketed. They pocketed £425,000 between them last year.
Cook Recruitment told the Mail that it provided stand-in staff “at rates set by the NHS” but accepted that these limits were broken “from time to time” in exceptional circumstances.
Free trip: Cook Recruitment took its ‘Elite Club’, including directors David and Jenny Cook, in a circle, to the Caribbean
England’s NHS spent £3bn of its total £136bn budget this year on agency staff to fill the gaps.
The Mail audit examines the accounts of ten leading agencies. It shows that they keep around 20 percent of what they charge the health service, after covering the salaries of substitute staff.
That was the equivalent last year of £600m that could have been used for training.
Theresa Villiers, a former Tory cabinet minister, said: ‘This is shocking and has to stop. These funds must be dedicated to patient care.
“Both the NHS and the government need to control this and reduce these costs. This is cheating the taxpayer and the NHS.’
A source close to Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the government would act to reduce unnecessary spending.
The insider added: “While we are recruiting thousands more NHS doctors and nurses, temporary staff are needed to help eliminate the backlog in treatment left behind by the Covid pandemic.”
“We need to cut wasteful spending and ensure every penny in the NHS goes towards caring for patients and not excessive profit for recruitment consultants. We will act to address any abuse of current agreements.
The audit also revealed that profits for the agency industry could have been as high as £100m, based on average margins of just over 3 per cent.
Cook Recruitment Group, which runs National Locums, Locum People and The GP Team, made £1.1m in profit last year, thanks in part to NHS cash from more than 200 UK hospitals.
National Locums describes itself as “a leading provider” of doctors and nurses to the NHS and private hospitals and saw its turnover rise by 14.4 per cent last year to £20m, all of which stemmed from the rates.
Locum People offers doctors a £250 reward if they refer a friend who then works 250 hours, with no limit on the number of colleagues they can refer.
A GP position in east London with National Locums offered £950 for a shift on call which would equate to £247,000 a year.
An NHS GP typically earns between £65,000 and £98,000.
ID Medical Group Holdings, the parent company of the ID Medical agency, made a profit of around £3 million, part of which was derived from fees it charges the NHS to hire surrogates.
Their website boasts of “more than 1.6 million subs hours a year, often more” and claims that 95 percent of trusts “regularly work with us.” He says he offers about 2,000 “doctor roles per month, on average.”
A job offered by ID Medical last week offered £40 an hour for a radiologist, an annual salary of £83,200. But an NHS radiology job advertised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, offered a salary of between £33,706 and £40,558.
Cook Recruitment and ID Medical Group Holdings posted gross margins of 20 percent and 19 percent respectively.
The adventure of the doctor is worth it
At 83 years old, Dr. Mo Sacoor shows no signs of slowing down.
The self-described “crazy cardiologist and serial entrepreneur from Mozambique” founded the surrogate agency ID Medical in 2002, and last year it had a turnover of more than £100m.
Its parent company, ID Medical Group Holdings, made a profit of around £3 million, part of which was derived from the fees it charges the NHS to hire surrogates on its books.
ID Medical declined to comment.
Founder: Dr Mo Sacoor
Another company, Medsol Healthcare, which has supplied surrogates to the NHS for over a decade, boasted a “record first quarter due to increased NHS demand” in 2021.
The company posted a profit of £1.8 million with a margin of 8 per cent. Medsol did not respond to a request for comment.
In a bid to end gaudy agency salary deals of £400,000 a year or more, the NHS introduced a salary cap of 150 per cent of standard salary in 2015, but trusts can make exceptions if necessary.
Dennis Reed, of campaign group Silver Voices, said: ‘The Mail has identified a scandalous situation. These agencies are gorging themselves on NHS money.
Occupational health spokesman Wes Streeting said the lack of training of enough doctors had left the health service “at the mercy of recruiting companies”.
He added: “Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money go straight into the pockets of recruiting executives, while patients find it impossible to get a GP appointment or an operation.”
Neil Carberry of the Confederation of Recruitment and Employment, which represents companies supplying temporary staff, said they kept the NHS ‘on its feet’.
He said the margin agencies cover “things like national insurance and security checks that companies need to do to make sure patients are safe.”
He added: “The real problem is that NHS staffing frameworks are not fit for purpose: the government’s unwillingness to pay nurses and doctors what they’re worth has led to more and more shifts being turned away, and Higher cost, last minute shifts are needed.
David Cook, of the Cook Recruitment Group, said: “Without companies like ours, the NHS couldn’t function.”
He said the company provided staff “at rates set by the NHS”, adding: “We are proud of the investment we make in our team.”
ID Medical had no comment.