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The impact of temporary staff on permanent staff in accident and emergency departments

Zofia Bajorek (Institute for Employment Studies, Brighton, UK)
David Guest (Department of Management, King’s College London, London, UK)

Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance

ISSN: 2051-6614

Article publication date: 18 February 2019

Issue publication date: 21 February 2019




The purpose of this paper is to address a gap in the recent literature on employment of temporary workers by exploring the impact of temporary workers on the perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of permanent staff with particular reference to their implications for patient safety and service quality in hospital accident and emergency departments. The analysis is set in the context of the job demands-resources theory.


The research was undertaken using a case study approach with semi-structured interviews in two London hospitals. Participants included staff from the HR director level, clinical managers and permanent staff who all had an influence in the hiring and management of temporary staff in some way. Transcripts were analysed thematically using an adopted framework approach.


The results indicate that the effect of temporary staff on permanent staff depended on the quality of the “resource”. There was a “hierarchy of preference” for temporary staff based on their familiarity with the context. Those unfamiliar with the department served as a distraction to permanent staff due to the need to “manage” them in various ways. While this was rarely perceived to affect patient safety, it could have an impact on service quality by causing delays and interruptions. In line with previous research, the use of temporary staff also affected perceptions of fairness and the commitment of some permanent staff.

Practical implications

A model developing an approach for improved practice when managing temporary staff was developed to minimise the risks to patient safety and service quality, and improve permanent staff morale.

Social implications

The review highlights the difficulties that a limited amount of temporary staff integration can have on permanent staff and patient care, indicating that consideration must be placed on how temporary staff are inducted and clarifying expectations of roles for both temporary and permanent staff.


This paper studies the under-researched impact of temporary staff, and, distinctively, staff employed on a single shift, on the behaviour and attitudes of permanent staff. It highlights the need to consider carefully the qualitative nature of “resources” in the job demands-resources theory.



This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research and the ESRC.


Bajorek, Z. and Guest, D. (2019), "The impact of temporary staff on permanent staff in accident and emergency departments", Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 2-18.



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