The recent criticism of the increase in the amount spent on locum doctors by the NHS over the last two years and the subsequent speculation over whether or not patient care has suffered as a direct result has served to underline the importance of ensuring high standards in the medical recruitment industry.
Amid all the wrangling between unions, healthcare bosses, politicians and front-line staff, that most pertinent and worthy of questions "Was it worth it?" is perhaps the only line that can be drawn under the debate. The money has been spent. So what then of the services rendered?
With the spectre of healthcare cuts looming overhead, this climate of heightened scrutiny surrounding the use, and indeed, performance of locum doctors, nurses and other specialists is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The merits of it are threefold. Firstly, an increased demand for the very best professionals and expertise.
Secondly, a thrust towards a more responsible, structured and consistent recruitment market. And thirdly, and most importantly, an assurance to patients that their healthcare providers are seeking top quality staffing solutions - both temporary and permanent - from top quality staffing providers.
The 19th Century American physician Oliver Wendall Holmes once wrote "Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust". In the business of healthcare, these are words to be ignored at one's peril. At its most extreme, in no other sector can a financial decision result so directly in a life/death defining outcome and this is the key reason why the debate over increased expenditure on locums has gathered such momentum. For healthcare providers in need of finding expert manpower, often at short notice, it ultimately boils down to placing trust in an agency that not only understands their needs but is also able to offer them the highest quality candidates available.
The NHS is facing a staffing shortage. The debate about increased expenditure on locums will continue, drawing ever more attention to their role in the system. Regardless of this, the bottom line for healthcare providers is that there are temporary posts that need filling. Do it right and you get a professional and flexible workforce. Do it wrong and it is not just reputations but lives that are placed on the line.