Agency and locum NHS staff costs rise steeply

The Oxford Times: Director of clinical services Paul Brennan Director of clinical services Paul Brennan

THE money spent on agency staff and locum doctors to deal with a rise in hospital patients dramatically increased, figures show.

Health bosses say the rise was due to the need to bring in temporary staff while permanent ones were recruited.

But they say the figures will fall this year.

In total, when the figures for both John Radcliffe Hospital and Banbury’s Horton General Hospital are included, a total of £1.45m was spent in 2012-13 on doctors – up from £1.18 in 2009-10, while £766,255 was spent in 2012-13 on nurses – up from £135,813 spent there in 2009-10.

This is a rise for doctor spending of 22 per cent and a rise for spending on nurses of 464 per cent.

Royal College of Nursing officer Victoria Couling said: “Our experience shows that when a hospital becomes over reliant on agency staff, it can be a warning sign that they are not recruiting the permanent staff they need.

“Over reliance on these staff can be expensive, though a significant amount of the cost goes to the agency rather than the nurse.

“The hospital has had a high number of vacancies over a number of years, and like many trusts is now playing catch-up.

“Sadly there is no quick fix, especially when there is a shortage of nurses in the UK.”

Figures provided under the Freedom of Information Act show temporary nursing cover costs at Oxford’s John Radcliffe went from £104,291 from 2009-10 to £650,102 in 2012-13.

Doctor cover at the JR went from £696,865 in 2009-10 to £837,620 in 2012-13.

And £423,355 was spent from April to the end of January on doctors, along with £340,782 on nurses in the same period.

At the JR and Horton General, the full staffing complement is 13 junior doctors and registrars, 12.35 consultants, 26.45 other staff and 154.57 nursing staff.

Yet the trust said it was unable to say how many of these posts are filled.

Director of clinical services Paul Brennan, said the number of people as well as seriously ill people admitted to a bed were rising.

A&E visits went from 104,421 in 2008-09 to 117,268 in 2012-13, while emergency admissions went from 79,940 in 2009-10 to 88,316 last year.

The trust has long warned that too many people go to A&E who could be seen elsewhere, such as at their GPs.

Latest figures for the week to February 16 show of the 2,257 who attended, 329 waited over four hours, a performance of 85.4 per cent.

Mr Brennan said: “In 2011-2012, it was decided that the number of posts for both doctors and nurses needed to be increased and these posts were filled with locum and agency staff while staff were recruited.

“We have now successfully recruited to posts at all grades and reduced our reliance on agency and locum staff, while ensuring that the unit is staffed to deliver safe and quality care.

“There will always be a need for locum or agency staff to cover for unexpected factors such as staff shortages due to sickness, leave, etc.”

Comments (1)

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2:14pm Mon 3 Mar 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

You can understand why it is hard for them to recruit.

An annual season ticket on the X90 or Tube costs £1000. Working for an NHS Trust in London guarantees a salary premium of 20%.

Therefore a nurse in Oxford on £20,000 a year would take home £1368.22 a month whilst a nurse on the same band in London would take home £1594.88.

That's £1720 a year better off after transport costs.
You can understand why it is hard for them to recruit. An annual season ticket on the X90 or Tube costs £1000. Working for an NHS Trust in London guarantees a salary premium of 20%. Therefore a nurse in Oxford on £20,000 a year would take home £1368.22 a month whilst a nurse on the same band in London would take home £1594.88. That's £1720 a year better off after transport costs. Andrew:Oxford
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