Skip to main content

Agency profits growing due to ‘acute shortage of staff’

Published on: 10 Oct 2023

Two companies supplying staff to the NHS saw large growth in income and profits last year, annual accounts reveal.

Independent Clinical Services, owned by a Canadian private equity firm, saw a growth in turnover of more than 40 per cent, with income growing from £273m to £399m, year on year.

Profit after tax also went from £54.6m in the year ending December 2021 to £61.3m in December 2022 (up 12 per cent).

The company is owned by Acacium, which also owns Thornbury – a nursing agency – and Pulse Healthcare. The increase in turnover at ICS accounted for most of the growth in Acacium’s UK revenue overall, which went from £740m to £897m in the same period.

A smaller company specialising in recruiting overseas healthcare staff to the UK also saw a bumper year, according to data released last month.

Your World Recruitment Ltd’s income increased by nearly a third, going from £50.5m to £66.8m (up 32 per cent), with a similar rise in profits.

The company’s strategic report said: “Demand for agency staff and healthcare services in the first half of 2023 has remained strong principally due to staff shortages in the NHS and high waiting lists.

“The board expects the challenging market conditions to continue for the remainder of 2023, although demand is expected to remain due to an acute shortage of healthcare workers in the UK and worldwide.” The NHS has been pushing hard for increased overseas recruitment in recent years, to fill domestic gaps.

Tight national controls were put in place on the rates and total sums trusts were allowed to pay for agency staff several years ago but were relaxed during the most severe covid periods. NHSE sought to restore strict ceilings last year and most recently updated its rules in April. It is thought many systems overshot their ceilings last year, however, and that this year strikes are putting them under pressure.

Figures were not available for another large agency, Medacs Healthcare, as the filing of its annual accounts with Companies House was overdue. Accounts to the end of December 2022 were due by the end of June. In March this year, Medacs was bought by Twenty20 Capital for £104m from Impellam.

Medacs claims to be the largest supplier of “on-framework locum doctors to the NHS and the only specialist staffing agency awarded a place on every national framework in the UK”.

English trusts spent more than £2.5bn on agency staff in 2021-22.

NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, Your World Recruitment Limited, Acacium and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which represents agencies, were all approached for comment.