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Hospital defends £120-an-hour nursing shift

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A hospital has defended itself against revelations that it paid more than £120 an hour for an agency nurse.

The Conservative party yesterday attacked the NHS for spending too much on agency staff.

Royal Chesterfield Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted spending £121.10 an hour on an agency nurse following a Freedom of Information request by the Tories.

But the trust defended its actions, saying it had no alternative but to spend the money on a senior sister in its A and E department, which found itself short-staffed on Christmas Day 2006.

A spokeswoman said: 'To maintain a service for patients, a senior grade nurse from an agency was asked to work and we paid a premium rate for this - because of the demand for agency staff over the bank holiday period.

‘Emergency care is one of the busiest areas of the trust, where nursing staff need specialist skills to deal with patients with emergency medical and surgical conditions.

'Although this level of payment is unusual, under the circumstances the trust is satisfied it was the right decision to make to maintain safe levels of staffing for seriously ill patients.’

Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it had supplied wrong information to the party’s researchers. The trust said the true amount paid to agency staff was £20.23, not more than £120 as previously reported.
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