The cost of agency charges for temporary midwives is “spiralling out of control”, according to a report.
NHS trusts in England pay almost £50 per hour for agency midwives when the normal rate of pay for a band 6 midwife with 10 years’ experience is £17.84 an hour, said the Royal College of Midwives.
“Mangers should be authorised to pay voluntary overtime to existing staff rather than calling in more expensive agency staff”
The college’s report – entitled Spending On Agency Midwives in England – is based on Freedom of Information requests sent to 136 trusts last year about their spend on agency midwives.
Among the 130 trusts that responded, spending on agency midwives increased from £10,159,099 in 2012 to £17,849,767 in 2014 – an increase of almost 76%.
Over 73% of trusts in London with maternity services relied on agency midwives to staff their services, the RCM found.
There were 11 trusts that spent over £1m on agency midwives in the three-year period, with one trust spending £4,482,432 on agency midwives between 2012-2014.
The spend per hour of £49.01 was more than 2.7 times the amount for a permanently employed midwife and more than 1.8 times the amount of paying overtime, said the college.
Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communication at the RCM, said: “These findings show that some trusts in England are heavily reliant on agency midwives to ensure they can provide a safe service and these costs are spiralling out of control year after year.
“This is an incredibly expensive and wasteful way to staff maternity units especially, because over half the spend per hour that the trusts are paying is not going to the midwives but are on-costs going to the agencies,” he said.
“The costs of agency staff are spiralling out of control year after year,” he said. “The best solution to this problem is to eliminate the shortage of midwives by training and employing more midwives and retaining existing midwives by treating them fairly and valuing them.”
Mr Skewes added: “We have found that too often trusts tightly control the spending on bank shifts and overtime for midwives which results in an over reliance on agency midwives.
“This is clearly more expensive and needs to be corrected sooner rather than later,” he said. “Mangers should be authorised to pay voluntary overtime to existing staff rather than calling in more expensive agency staff.”
In October, the Department of Health revealed that its proposed cap on the hourly rate the NHS can pay agency staff will be 55% above the pay levels of permanent staff, subject to consultation.
Meanwhile, in September, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority issued “ceilings” to each trust for their expenditure with temporary staffing agencies.
The main findings of the RCM report:
- The spending on agency increased from £10,159,099 in 2012 to £17,849,767 in 2014 – an increase of 75.7%
- Trusts in England spent £17,849,767 on agency staff in 2014 – equivalent to the salaries of 511 experienced full time midwives
- Overwhelmingly, the trusts that use agency staff are in the London region, with 73.7% of trusts in London using agency midwives
- There were 11 trusts that spent over £1m on agency midwives in the three year period, with one spending £4,482,432 on agency midwives between 2012-2014
- Trusts reported that the spend per hour was £49.01 in 2014
- The normal rate of pay for a band 6 midwife with 10 years’ experience is £17.84 an hour and when a midwife works overtime they get paid time and a half which would be £26.76 an hour·