One important outcome from our board meeting this week was a Corporate Business Action Plan, which will link into the Personal Action Plans of the 65 or so staff we have in the office. The healthcare industry needs consistency and continuity on the temporary side, and I like to replicate this in the office – this scheme will hopefully ensure career development and longevity of employment, and reward those staff who have really added value over the course of the year via a profit share scheme.
We decided about 18 months ago that we needed to diversify into other areas of supply – previously we were mainly providing healthcare assistants and nurses, now we do GPs, medical locums and AHPs too. I think some people see the headlights and freeze; we haven't done. Since January we've been very busy, opening two new branches (one in Barking and one in Gateshead). We've taken on about half a dozen more staff, but we still need another 6-10, to get us up to about 75. We've doubled in size in the last 12 months, and hope to do the same again in the next 12 months, so it's about giving all members of staff buy-in, and getting them to the next level of commitment.
Towards the end of 2008, we were awarded a Master Vendor contract by Four Seasons Healthcare, which was reducing the number of agencies it uses for temporary staff from 200 down to one. The contract's worth about £5m – that’s about 600 temporary staff, plus about 15 people to run it at our end – so it was a big deal for us to get. But we're ISO-certified, Investors In People-accredited, and we really push the quality of our customer service - everything is very IT-driven, so it reduces the admin burden for the client. We're now into the last month of the roll-out and it will be fully live by the start of June, so I spent some of last week working on the finishing touches. The client is just in the process of breaking away from their old regional suppliers, who'll continue to be secondary suppliers to us on an ongoing basis – we have client liaison managers in place to make sure it’s all running smoothly.
I've also been getting out and about at branch level - I spend the majority of my time in St Helens, but I've been in London today, Cannock yesterday, and Gateshead last week. Usually I just get an update from the branch managers, and check on how the staff are doing - do they need advertising, do they need business development - just to see where they're at and where they're going, basically. The general mood seems to depend who you speak to: thankfully for us, the healthcare sector seems to be more robust than most at the minute; others are really starting to feel the impact. But we're not taking anything for granted - it's still hard work, like it always is.
Ian Munro is the Managing Director of Castlerock Care Services, an established locum agency based in Merseyside. Castlerock supplies temporary staff to the NHS and private healthcare sector across the UK and employs around 60 fulltime staff.