Staffing agencies cash in on NHS nursing shifts over bank holiday
NHS hospitals across the country paid more than £1,000 for agency nurses and locum doctors to fill shifts on a public holiday, new figures show.
One Bristol hospital paid £1,800 for a nurse on the May Day Bank Holiday, while another in Morecambe parted with £2,500 for a locum doctor to work the same day.
The figures, obtained by Sky News through a Freedom of Information request, also show how half of the doctors working at a West Midlands hospital on 5 May this year were locums.
“This is something that should be looked at with the utmost urgency”
Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These figures are truly shocking.
“Agency nurses do not provide good value for money and the employers who use these extraordinary levels should be held to account for it,” he told the broadcaster.
“This is public money that is not being well spent,” he said. “This is something that should be looked at with the utmost urgency.”
Eighty of the 150 NHS trusts in England responded to the request, which asked how many agency staff they employed and the highest rates paid on the first May Bank Holiday.
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust paid an agency £2,500 for a locum doctor to work single shift, while four others paid more than £1,100.
Meanwhile, University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust paid £1,800 for a nurse on a shift of just over 12 hours, working out at around £150 an hour, as four other trust’s spent more than £1,200.
Half of the doctors working at The Heart of England Trust, in the West Midlands, on 5 May were locums, and in three others, including Shrewsbury and Telford Trust, almost one in three nurses were from agencies.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We now have 6,700 more doctors and 6,200 more nurses directly employed by NHS organisations than in 2010.
“The figures are not a full picture of staffing in the NHS, but we encourage all trusts to maintain a tight grip on their staff costs and we will hold poor performers to account.”
Nurse and National Health Action Party spokeswoman Kathryn Anderson, who has worked agency shifts, blamed the government.
She said: “The outrageous amounts paid for agency staff is just a symptom of a situation created by this government through its cuts to NHS staff and funding.
But she added: “From first hand experience, I know that hospitals do not use agency staff lightly – senior ward staff need to jump through hoops before an agency nurse is allowed.
”It should also be remembered that the amounts quoted are the amounts the hospital pays the agency, not what the nurse receives,” she said.
Ms Anderson suggested the government should consider a cap on the hourly amount an NHS hospital will pay an agency for both nursing and medical personnel.