Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Agency nurse spending in South West soars to £60m in four years


NHS trusts in the South West of England have seen their agency nurse bill more than quadruple in the past four years, from around £12m in 2010 to more than £60m in 2014.

Across 22 trusts in the region, all but two saw their spending on agency nurses rise over the period, according to data collated by the Royal College of Nursing.


Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust spent the most on agency nursing in 2014, with a bill of £6.1m – up more than 15 times the £389,000 it spent in 2010.

The RCN data, which was collected via Freedom of Information requests to all 26 NHS trusts in the region, also revealed steep rises in agency spending at North Bristol NHS Trust, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

North Bristol spent £5.93m on agency nursing in 2014, compared to around £350,000 in 2010, while Plymouth saw its agency nurse bill rise from just £73,000 in 2010 to £2.43m in 2014.

“Like NHS trusts across the country, we are actively investing in recruiting more permanent nurses”

North Bristol NHS Trust

Over the same period, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust went from spending around £1.1m to £5.2m.

North Bristol NHS Trust’s director of nursing Sue Jones said its priority was to ensure safe staffing on wards.

She said: “We have an in-house nursing bank which is always our first port of call to fill shifts but, inevitably on occasions, there will be times when we require agency nurses, often at short notice.

“Like NHS trusts across the country, we are actively investing in recruiting more permanent nurses,” she said.

Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said it also used agency nurses as an “absolute last resort”, after considering redeploying nurses from other wards, utilising overtime or using bank staff.

A spokeswoman for the trust added that it had undertaken recruitment drives in recent years. She said: “The trust’s staff in post has increased by over 270 additional nurses and healthcare assistants or clinical helpers since March 2011. These initiatives will continue throughout 2015 and beyond.”

“[Recruitment] initiatives will continue throughout 2015 and beyond”

Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

Agency nurse spend at Great Western Hospitals was now coming down since a peak in 2013 of £6.35m, said a spokesman for the trust.

He said his was due to “steady progress” in recruiting permanent employees since April 2013, which had resulted in 457 extranurses working at the trust.

“We continue to experience a significant increase in demand for our services against the backdrop of a national nursing shortage, which is affecting all NHS trusts,” he added.

“While the arrangement is by no means ideal, agency staff do offer a short term solution and provide an invaluable service in covering unplanned absences at short notice and supporting teams who are extremely busy caring for a growing number of patients,” said the spokesman.

“It takes three years to train a nurse, so we need action now to ensure that the UK has the nurses required”

Jeannett Martin

The RCN said the use of agency staff by trusts to address the current shortfall in nurses was costing the NHS a “huge” amount of money and called for immediate action from the incoming government to tackle the problem.

Jeannett Martin, RCN regional director for the South West region, said: “An already overstretched workforce is trying to carry out even more work in even less time so NHS trusts are trying to plug the gap.”

She added: “It takes three years to train a nurse, so we need action now to ensure that the UK has the nurses required to provide patients with the care that they need.”

The South West situation mirrors a national trend towards the use of more agency staff, as trusts have reacted to concerns about safe staffing levels after the Francis report in 2013 and new regulations and guidance from NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, respectively.

TrustAgency Spend  in 2010 in £Agency spend 2014 in £
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust2,195,9931,986,185
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust335,396344,433
Devon Partnership NHS Trust870,1432,257,797
Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust726,6381,097,683
Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust784,2243,704,242
Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust1,073,6575,201,080
North Bristol NHS Trust348,6985,929,493
Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust802,9434,137,488
Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust73,1062,430,000
Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust471,1502,994,869
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust663,6673,698,300
Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust389,1666,119,000
Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation Trust5,6100
Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust352,0093,428,700
Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust544,3212,135,617
Taunton & Somerset NHS Foundation Trust782,0001,217,841
Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trustn/a (not formed at this point)|1,109,903
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust843,0304,981,980
Weston Area Health NHS Trust61,0001,997,431
Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust931,4452,505,134
2gether NHS Foundation Trust229,9871,805,689
Gloucester Care Services NHS Trustn/a (not formed at this point)2,178,771

Readers' comments (7)

  • A very interesting story showing detailed information.
    However, in the case of the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, I believe their reliance and costs of using ' BANK ' staff may not be shown here, and of course where they have closed down a significant number of wards throughout Wiltshire ( and possibly elsewhere ? ) and therefore reduced the numbers of beds and patients receiving in patient care - this may be showing a misrepresentation of the 'true' position for their current spend figures on agency staff on a like for like basis ?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Trusts need to look at the way that they pay staff for bank shifts. When I started bursing my substantive pay was paid monthly but any bank shifts were paid weekly. This was a huge incentive to work some extra hours. Most trust now pay all staff monthly - meaning that if you do a bank shift on 1st April you don't get paid for it until the end of May. I have had several staff approach me recently to say that they would work bank shifts if they could be paid weekly. Instead they have chosen to join an agency where this is a possibility

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I note the media neber complains about bankers bonuses, so what , good for the agency nurses getting paid more, good luck to them

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Unless nurses are paid a decent wage for the work they do this trend will continue. Long gone are the days when nursing was a vocation, today we all have to earn a wage to live and support our family.
    Fair pay for all NHS staff

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Laha78

    Anon 5:51pm
    Here in Scotland we're paid weekly for doing bank shifts, honestly think all wards would struggle for staff if they made it monthly. It's always great to fall back on especially during 5 week months.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • At my trust they wont pay overtime..but will get in agency nurses at more cost!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • No surprise here, this will be reflected throughout the NHS. I regularly get asked what am I going to do about reducing agency spend? Well how can you with safer staffing, charting, mental health issues amongst acute patients at a all time how, paper shuffling & IT button pressing to ensure you are updating your PDD's before your 2 hrly pressure area care, your hourly
    rounding .........the list goes on.
    Answer well long term planning to train more nurses & seriously consider the level of academia required to do this. Pay staff a decent wage then they won't leave & go work for expensive agencies earning twice the money. Have a career pathway use to have junior & senior staff nurse. The numbers required per ward now so that the CQC don't berate us are much higher than ever before not that we needed them to tell us nurses that they gave us permission. But have not provided the funding....... The way overtime/ extra hours us an issue why do it & wait 5 weeks? Oh I could go on........

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs