NHS Overspending on Agency Staff

Simon Stevens Chief Executive of NHS England admitted that NHS hospitals were “over-spending” on temporary staffing. “What we’ve got to do is convert that [agency] spending into good, paying permanent jobs.” He went on to say that this could be done by offering more flexibility to permanent staff. Mr Stevens also indicated that the NHS would now be taking a tough stance with agencies. Mr Stevens drew attention to a recent regulator’s report which showed that NHS spent £1.8 billion on agency staff in 2014. This contrasts with other quoted figures which suggest that spending in this area is even higher (£3.3 billion in the last financial year). Concerns were raised about this level of spending last year given the general funding shortages faced by the NHS. Concerns were also raised about the impact on quality and consistency of care. Hospitals could be paying as much as £3200 to an agency for a doctor’s shift or £2200 to an agency for a 12 hour nursing shift. Last year it also became apparent that doctors and nurses were giving up permanent positions to take up agency work because the pay is much better and conditions much more flexible. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: “The reality is that because of very poor workforce planning and because of cuts, particularly in the number of new student nurses taken on, the NHS is now playing catch-up and to fill that vacuum agencies have stepped in.” According to Dr Carter, 30,000 people were turned away from nursing courses due to lack of funding. He called for more flexible working hours, pointing out that 90% of nurses are women – many of whom have childcare responsibilities and are unable to work rigid shift patterns. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that there are 8,200 more nurses working than there were in May 2010. However, the RCN highlighted its figures from April suggesting the increase in the total nursing workforce is 1,470 if the numbers of midwives, health visitors and school nurses are stripped out. Patrick Oliver Clinical Negligence specialist at Setfords says: “I am glad to hear that NHS England is intending to address this problem. Patients are put at risk with high staff turnover and the vast sums being spent on agency staff should be diverted to training and retention of permanent staff.” If you’ve had treatment you’re concerned about, phone Patrick now on 01635 887 665.