Insights into UK Healthcare Recruitment

Insights into UK Healthcare Recruitment

The Recruitment Curry with Olivia Spruce 

Ketan Gajjar: Hi there. Namaste. How are you? This is Ketan Gajjar from the very AAPNU Ahmedabad. Welcome to the Recruitment Curry Podcast. Olivia. Hi. for inviting 

Olivia Spruce: me. It’s great to be here. I believe I’ve been in very good company. You’ve had Neil Carberry. You’ve had James Caan. You’ve now got Olivia Spruce.

Ketan Gajjar: Absolutely. Like we were chatting just before a while, you are one of the veterans from the healthcare recruitment industry, Olivia. And The audience, the listeners will have lots to, obviously take home and, from the insights that that you share on the podcast today.

So without further ado, although, people know you in the industry, an introduction will be of great help. 

Olivia Spruce: I’m the CEO for Positive Healthcare which I’m also part owner of as well. I’ve been in recruitment for just coming up to 23 years which I mean, it’s like having a child that’s grown into an adult. It’s insane. And it happens every day. I consider how crazy that is. But I’ve been in recruitment for 23 years, healthcare recruitment for around 12 years now. So yes, gosh, over that time, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen a lot of changes.

But it’s great to be with positive health care. Fantastic. We are a health care recruitment consultancy that operates within the private sector. And on framework as well. 

Ketan Gajjar: Fabulous. So 23 years and then, veteran is the right sort of label, at least at this stage.

Craziness. And in your mind 

Olivia Spruce: it’s crazines , if I’ve had a child, it’d be a fully fledged adult now, 23 years old. That’s insane.

Ketan Gajjar: That, that’s a very good way to, put across your experience. And I’m sure, the listeners can use this tactic, in the interviews hopeful. This is my baby.

Very good. Very good. So Olivia, you know what we want to talk today and obviously here from you is a couple of points starting with how has the UK healthcare recruitment sector, changed post pandemic a lot has happened in the last two years.

So if you want to share your experiences and your thoughts. 

Olivia Spruce: Look, when I put together my business plan for 2020 at the end of 2019, Hey, I did not consider chucking a global pandemic. Frankly speaking, it’s been absolutely insane. As I say I, none of us predicted what, what actually happened.

And I think that the way that the way that certainly our business got through it was just by. Just by being extremely agile and operating a really agile business model. We cover areas such as nursing, AHP, mental health. AHP took a real battering. Unfortunately, during COVID whereas our nursing business absolutely thrived.

And as a business, we were really agile enough to make the best out of that. And we continue to grow during COVID, which I’m extremely proud of and is a great testament to the team that we’ve got here. 

Ketan Gajjar: Wow. Agility is one thing, that has brought being impacted straight away given the situation.

What are the changes, Olivia, you believe, especially from the day to day delivery operations perspective? Has your team had to, change given the entire situation? 

Olivia Spruce: Our business is all about growth and we continue to grow very nicely during COVID, but we don’t want to do very nice.

We want to grow quite aggressively. I would say that in the first instance, operationally, our internal recruitment took a step backwards, a definite step backwards, because what we didn’t want to do Is on board, a load of consultants, hungry, talented consultants. I just have them working from home. For us that wouldn’t have properly or adequately engaged them into our business.

So that was the first thing is it for us. It was about returning our existing staff and really getting the most out of those people. So I would say that our internal recruitment did take a backseat and now we’re all back in the office and hopefully looking at a world post COVID that our internal recruitment is really taking shape again, which I, I’m really proud of.

How did it impact our business? We just had to be prepared to change. We had to be nimble enough to reflect the market, which during COVID it seemed to change on almost a daily basis. It was crazy. And it was just making sure that operationally we were very well aligned. To respond to that change, frankly.

So from my perspective, it was staying really close to my managers and my staff to make sure that they had everything in place to deliver effectively. 

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. So it’s down to the process that you you know, leveraged the process expertise that you had. Invested into, over the years, across your teams as well.

And in terms of the changes, the post COVID now, how do you see the healthcare recruitment market has shaped, especially in the last 12 months when, the restrictions have, been released and, situations, have gone back to normal. 

Olivia Spruce: Good question. And I think we’ve got to look at it from a short term perspective and a medium to long term perspective.

Ultimately COVID is still out there. Okay, we’ve got vaccinations, but I think we could be in for a tough winter ahead, depending on variations and whatever. Sure. I would say the immediate impact has been on our nursing community, especially, but ultimately the healthcare market the brilliant healthcare heroes out there that ultimately, Saved our society during the heart of COVID.

They are burnt out and they are exhausted yet. They’re still fighting on every single day. I think the immediate change is that, if we’re gonna, if we want a nurse to work extra shifts or work outside of their norm, you’ve got to be able to process their compliance very efficiently.

They just haven’t got time to be messing around with forms. It’s got to be as an efficient process as you possibly can get it. And I also think that their expectations in terms of pay rates is really Increased in a post COVID world, if they’re going to work, particularly whilst they’re pretty burnt out and exhausted, they’re only going to work for the best pay rates in the market.

So their expectations of increase, but I think generally speaking, we’ve got an exhausted healthcare workforce, which was always reaching some kind of climax prior to COVID. I think COVID’s kind of tipped it over the edge and made this issue so much more acute. than it actually was.

And we really are in a crisis, a real global crisis in terms of our healthcare professionals and people leaving the sector. And I think we really, universally need to take that into consideration and we certainly do as a business. And I think that’s the short term impact of COVID.

I think if we look at the medium to long term impact. The waiting lists are just longer. Patient waiting lists are longer than ever. Which I think will positively affect our markets such as AHP. Mental health issues, they’ve become so prominent in a post COVID world. And I think that will continue to escalate.

And so I think for us, the mental health markets will continue to grow. I think the healthcare recruitment market as a whole really is pregnant with opportunity, to be honest. And I say that in a positive way. Thank you. But I feel sad saying that’s come out of such of a dark place, COVID and the impact on our society as a whole has been just insane.

I don’t think any of us could have predicted its influence, but I do feel that its influence will be far reaching and as health care recruitment professionals, I think we have to do this sector serious service by acting absolutely professionally and really working hard with the health care sector to come up with the very best and most appropriate solutions that we absolutely can.

Ketan Gajjar: Totally. And then, like you mentioned, the health care workers, have been the real heroes in the pandemic and, and now as well, supporting, the regular needs of, patients, globally, actually. And then that brings us to our next point where how do you suggest healthcare recruiters take care of the healthcare workers, when recruiting.

What are, the top Two or three elements that they should focus on to, to make their lives easier, especially from the healthcare workers. For 

Olivia Spruce: me, there, there are two top, there’s two top criteria here. First of all, is professionalism, level of service, integrity, authenticity, keeping our workers in work and doing what we say we are going to do.

I just think that is crucial. I think The professionalism within our industry really needs to take a step forward. A huge leap actually. And I think the second thing for me would be the efficiency of compliance. Compliance processes are, quite rightfully arduous processes, and we’ve got to hold our candidates hand really through that process and make it as slick and as efficient as absolutely possible.

And if we don’t do that, they’re just going to give up halfway through. Because these guys are already burdened with litigious issues, admin, they just haven’t got time for it. Or, we’ve got to hold their hand through it. We’ve got to be as efficient as we possibly can be. So for me, it’s about building these relationships, operating with professionalism and integrity, and really making sure that there’s a compliance process in place, which is just so efficient.

And it’s not going to take months to get through the process. 

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. So on, on the compliance point, now what are the immediate steps, from a compliance officers or a head of compliance perspective? They should be paying attention when handholding, is it setting expectations or is it, helping them through that?

Okay, fine. Here’s the list of documents that we need. When can you send it or, do you, 

Olivia Spruce: I think for me, it’s about collaboration, I think that consultants can no longer. operate by virtue of just being sat at a desk and almost waiting for the candidate to come through the process. I think it takes collaboration between compliance And between the consultants to really mutually hold their hands through this process and really get them engaged in the process as well.

And understanding why we need the information that we need. But I think that these teams within businesses. Certainly can’t work in isolation. They’ve got to work collaboratively in order to really engage the candidates through a really slick and efficient process. And I think the businesses that can find the most efficient processes coupled with the best relationship building at every touch point across payroll, across compliance, across your recruitment consultant.

I think those will be the most successful businesses as we continue to move forward. We’ve got to make it as easy for our candidates as absolutely possible. Sometimes we don’t always do that. We get so lost in what we need to supply from an audit perspective. We almost forget the candidate at the end of it.

The candidate is the most important person. They’re our biggest asset. We’ve got to really take care of them. Absolutely. And we’ve got to hold their hand through that process. But in order to do that, we’ve got to tackle it. We’ve got to tackle it collaboratively. I believe 

Ketan Gajjar: So collaboration is the word that’s number one priority, you know for everybody, including in the you know Included in the recruiting process and then two is you know when you collaborate you start with education and you covered the point that Why do we need what we need instead of just a transactional relationship where in here’s the list of documents, send them over.


Olivia Spruce: And you know what? I think also I’m really passionate about us raising our game As a market, as a healthcare recruitment sector, traditionally we don’t have the best experience, some of the people that have historically represented our sector have not been the most professional or credible people.

So as business owners, I really think it’s our job to lead by example and make sure we are as efficient and as professional As we absolutely can be recruitment consultants were successful five years ago by virtue of the fact that they’d be sat at their desk with a telephone and the internet, and they just make money and they just saw it as making money rather than actually making a serious difference in people’s lives.

And I would hope that if anything positive has come out of COVID. It’s sharpening our recruitment sector’s focus when it comes to professionalism, authenticity, and integrity, and delivering the very best service that we absolutely can, because we owe that to these, essentially, healthcare heroes. Who have saved us over the past two years, I feel have been incredibly let down by our government.

And so if we can make even the slightest of difference in terms of integrity and efficiency and really supporting our candidates that I’m, really passionate that we fight to do that. 

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. Sure. That’s a great point. Olivia, when you mentioned, up the game and, professionalism, integrity, some of these factors.

How do especially in a sector, which is, driven by margins margin pressures, how do you translate these traits and characteristics, onto your team specifically, and then what advice would you, give to, to, the recruiters outside that, this is, these are the basics that you must master.

Olivia Spruce: I think it starts at the type of people that you’re hiring. We have to hire the right people who have got a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of value and want to work in healthcare recruitment because actually they are quite passionate about making a difference.

And you talk about margin constraints. Okay. Five, 10, 15 years ago, let’s be completely honest. The healthcare recruitment market made an absolute fortune out of exorbitant Profit margins. The profit margins that are available today aren’t horrific. You can, you can still make a significant amount of money and be commercially viable with the margins that are in place.

It all comes down. To the efficiency in the way that you deliver and the longevity of being, being able to really retain, not only attract talent, but really retain cat talent. There are respectable profit margins to be made. It’s just, they’re not your ridiculous profit margins that were around 15 years ago.

And the market needs to move forward. And again, I think in a way that almost professionalizes the market once again, if I’m completely honest, but also it’s the type of people that we want to attract to our sector. We don’t particularly want to hire recruitment professionals that are drawn to ridiculous profit margins.

We want to draw recruitment professionals that want to provide the very best. service and have a great professional career, which is how we should be operating. So for me, it’s about the people that we hire. It’s about leading from the front, which I’ve mentioned before, in doing what we say we’re going to do as business leaders.

Not changing structures, ways of working, which is going to penalize our consultancies by doing what we say we’re going to do. And I don’t think this sector has got a great reputation of doing that. I think it’s fine for us to make mistakes, but I think as a business we have to own mistakes.

But I think we have to take care of our consultants. And I think we have to operate with integrity. And I believe that by doing that, our consultants will always mirror that. 

Ketan Gajjar: Absolutely. And what you’re saying in a sense is, reward good behavior instead of penalizing bad behavior, that further drives bad behavior.

Olivia Spruce: Absolutely. And really, a rare virtue often in recruitment traditionally has been integrity. And I think that’s a virtue now that absolutely has to be celebrated. Professionalism has to be celebrated. This is not about making a quick book. It’s about driving and creating.

sustainable and buildable relationships within a sector which is highly challenged. And I think it’s about working again collaboratively to meet the needs of that sector. And I think the needs of this sector have never been greater. And, it’s with pride I’m able to operate within it and somehow make a very small difference somewhere.

Ketan Gajjar: Absolutely, Olivia. And then, it’s, glad you mentioned it because on all the podcasts, one common, factor that, that has been mentioned by every guest is that it is a relationship based business the moment you make it transactional, you already lost it.

Olivia Spruce: Of course. It has to be, we have to transcend beyond. The transaction, the transactional and I, again, I would hope if anything positive has come out of COVID, it would be that sharper focus towards that very issue. 

Ketan Gajjar: And then lastly, one sensitive point, technology. So how has technology, played a role, in, in recruiting, because, we talk about relationships, we talk about collaboration, and you obviously, there’s also, element of transaction in the process.

I think 

Olivia Spruce: when 

Ketan Gajjar: What impact has technology, made? 

Olivia Spruce: I think when you’re operating within any market, which has a complex, often complex compliance process which needs to be there. Because at the heart of everything we do, the heart of everything we do is always the patient. It’s not the consultant.

It’s always the patient. So the compliance process is absolutely essential. That attention to detail is so important, but it is complex. It’s often a complex gathering of information. With several different touch points. So I think the technology that sits behind that can only enhance the relationship through driving efficiency.

I don’t think it’s anything as a market that we should be concerned about. I think that we need to look at more and more innovative solutions. In order to create the very best ultimate solution and the slickest process. And some of that is, is around the technology that, that needs to be in place.

So that for me is something that if it drives efficiency, it doesn’t eliminate the need for relationships. It, if anything, it drives the importance of relationships forward by just making the efficiencies so much. More clearer. So I think it’s really important. 

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. So it’s keeping the, it’s keeping the candidates as a focal point that, okay, fine.

How can we make their lives easier? Because, you covered, earlier in the point that, they’re busy and then, Yeah. The environment that they work in, it’s obviously, Yeah. High stressful because, they are assisting and, they’re dealing with lives of people, which is the most precious, pre, precious piece of work and, that they’re involved in, because it’s lives and, how can technology make their lives easier while improving the efficiencies and, ensuring the relationship and the collaboration.

Yeah. Aspect, still, and you know what 

Olivia Spruce: I’m. I’m going to say something quite generically now about recruitment across the board. As I say, I’m giving my age away a little bit, but I started in recruitment 23 years ago and we didn’t even have emails. We certainly didn’t have LinkedIn, one of, one of the most important factors in, having a successful, reasonably successful recruitment career is that I’ve really been able to evolve and embrace technology and embrace these changes.

And by staying current, you really do stay current. You don’t get left behind with a process that you might have followed 10 15 years ago. We’ve grown out of it. We’ve moved on. 

Ketan Gajjar: That’s a great point. We’ve moved 

Olivia Spruce: on. 

Ketan Gajjar: Exactly, Olivia. That’s a great point. You can’t the systems of, probably a decade old and, especially in these times.

So you have to live with the times, use the platforms that are available in all forms. So it’s not about shunning the old systems, but, embracing the new along with the old ones and, Working with what works best for you. 

Olivia Spruce: Absolutely. And you look at social media, what was that?

That wasn’t around 23 years ago. But thank God, I’ve really embraced that stuff. And I think that by aiming to stay as current As I possibly can be that that hopefully I can stay a kind of relevant and I can still continue to offer something. So I’ve certainly embraced technology and I will continue to do because the market, whenever we deal with people where we’re constantly evolving and that’s great.

That’s great.

Ketan Gajjar: Yep. And then especially, when your target market is evolving the candidates moving onto new platforms, utilizing new platforms, especially a platform like Instagram or Tik TOK. Which is pure entertainment. That’s where your candidate base is. You want to make sure that you are leveraging it, to your, to strengthen your business rather than just, ignoring it totally.

Olivia Spruce: Of course. And as human beings, from my point of view, I want to constantly try and improve. I want to always be the best that I can be. And I think you can only do that by being open minded and embracing some of these new things that life throws at us. Technology really is at the forefront of that.

And I’m proud to, keep exploring every avenue and keep an open mind and to stay always curious, not always operate in the way that we always have. We’ve got to constantly evolve. 

Ketan Gajjar: Be open is what you’re saying. I like to say I’m curious. Be open. Be open, be curious. Embrace technology to deliver best services to your clients and candidates.

If there’s one piece of advice you’d give you know, everybody working in healthcare recruitment, be it recruiters, compliance, payroll. What would that be? Olivia 

Olivia Spruce: is really dig deep and really look at your social conscience and the way that, that you are making such a difference. to people’s lives.

And therefore, it’s important to always try and stay ahead of the curve, to take on as much in terms of learning as you can, to be as professional as you absolutely can be, but ultimately to, to operate with authenticity and integrity. And I think if you can follow those core values. And being this to build, like I said, sustainable relationships, then I think you can have a great career.

I really do. I think recruitment as a whole, is the best career in the world. It’s fantastic. And healthcare recruitment for me is particularly special because, we’ve all had relatives in hospital and

We’ve all had relatives that have experienced great care, mediocre care, sometimes poor care. And, we really impact that as sector professionals. And I think that we should never forget. That patient who is somebody’s aunt or mother or father or grandparent that sits at the end of it and always remember that.

Ketan Gajjar: Great point there Olivia, again, like we covered, healthcare recruiters are, dealing with lives of  people and then, ensuring Good care, should be like breathing that, okay, fine, you know, this candidate that I’m going to play is, are they going to look after the patient exactly what they’re supposed to in the right frame of mind.

And Indirectly, you are touching lives like you mentioned, it’s not just booking in a shift or, having a file, which is compliant and, good to go. It’s about, how is it going to impact somebody’s life? It’s 

Olivia Spruce: about being the best that we Absolutely can in order to really make a difference.

And I think if you can operate with that kind of viewpoint and integrity, then you know, you’ll do really well. And that’s the advice that I would give to any junior consultant looking to embark upon this as a career. 

Ketan Gajjar: That’s such a great insight, Olivia. And just this one last thing, how do you like your curry?

Do you like lindaloo or is it one chilli curry? Now 

Olivia Spruce: anybody that knows me knows I love the curry. Do you know what? I, when I was a little girl, I used to like hot and spicy, but as I’ve got a bit older, I’m mild, I’m going a bit mild, but I do enjoy a curry, always. 

Ketan Gajjar: That’s really good to know.

So next time I’m in the UK and obviously Amy, obviously I explore London restaurants and, hopefully when you have time, you can maybe, go for a good curry then. 

Olivia Spruce: Absolutely, it is my favorite food. If I had to say what is my favorite food, it’s a bloody good curry. So how could I resist this podcast?

How can I resist a podcast called The Recruitment Curry? You had me at hello. 

Ketan Gajjar: Curry. 

Olivia Spruce: What curry is it maybe?

Ketan Gajjar: Absolutely Olivia. So Olivia, thank you very much for being on The Recruitment Curry podcast. I’m sure, the listeners will really enjoy your insights. And yeah, thank you. Once again, 

Olivia Spruce: so much for inviting me. It’s been great. Thank you. 

Ketan Gajjar: Thanks Olivia.

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