NHS spending on agency nurses has nearly doubled in 12 months in Wales, with £60m used up on temporary staff over the last four years, according to data revealed by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
Freedom of Information responses from health boards show that in 2013, £12m was spent on agency nurses, but a year later this figure had jumped to £23m.
Overall, since 2011 over £60m has been spent on employing agency nursing staff.
The highest spenders were Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board and Aneurin Bevan Health Board, while the lowest was Powys Teaching Health Board.
“This is neither financially sustainable nor best for patients”
The party noted that using agency nursing was more expensive and less efficient way of staffing, compared to a full-time salaried nurse.
Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said the figures justified the party’s campaign for legislation on minimum staffing levels.
“It is astounding that the NHS in Wales has spent over £60m on agency nurses in just a few years,” she said. “This money could have been used to employ around 2,400 extra full time nurses.
“Local Health Boards are spending millions of pounds on agency staff to provide temporary cover but this is neither financially sustainable nor best for patients,” she said.
She added: “This further highlights the importance of the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ More Nurses Bill. This bill would ensure that Wales would have a safe number of nurses on hospital wards across the country.”
Welsh government spokesman said: “The amount spent on agency nurses is small in the context of the £6bn we invest in the Welsh NHS every year, but it is important that health boards keep this spending under close scrutiny and take action to recruit.
“We are competing in a global market for nurses and there are recruitment pressures across the UK, not just in Wales,” he added.
Regional agency nurse spend since 2011
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board – £12,660,754 (since 2010-11)
Aneurin Bevan Health Board – £16,769,000
Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board – £10,141,000
Cardiff and Vale Health Board – £10,990,360
Cwm Taf Health Board – £4,216,000
Hywel Dda Health Board – £5,890,826
Powys Teaching Health Board – £95,742
Wales-wide spend on agency nurses
2011 – £14,042,670
2012 – £11,285,033
2013 – £12,759,037
2014 – £23,035,785