Trust spends 235k on agency nurses in three months as 'last resort'
AN NHS organisation said it spent £235,000 on agency nurses in three months as a "last resort" to tackle staff shortages in East Yorkshire.
Humber Foundation Trust, which runs East Riding Community Hospital in Beverley, mental health units and a range of health services across East Yorkshire, spent just £18,000 on agency staff over a three-month period in 2013, the lowest amount spent on agency nurses across the whole of Yorkshire.
However, over the same three-month period last year, the bill for agency staff had soared to £235,000 as the trust followed new guidelines introduced on safe staffing levels.
A trust spokesman said, "We aim to maintain a low spend on agency nursing staff. We only engage agency staff as a last resort after considering other staffing alternatives and temporary staff are not used as an ongoing staffing solution."
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has revealed the cost of hiring agency nurses has soared to £980m across the country.
The RCN says the problem could have been avoided by proper long-term planning to tackle the shortage of nurses, with about 20,000 nursing vacancies across the UK.
The money spent on agency nurses could have paid for 28,155 permanent nursing staff.
The RCN said Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust did not respond to a request for information on its agency nurse spending.
However, the Mail revealed last summer the trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, had spent almost £1m on agency nurses in 2013-14, a 77 per cent increase on the previous year, to tackle a shortage of nurses.
Inspectors for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) discovered 132 shifts had gone uncovered over a three-week period last year and reported staff shortages were "impacting on the care patients received."
Since then, the Hull trust has embarked on a recruitment programme to hire more nurses.
Staff shortages at Humber Foundation Trust were also flagged up by CQC inspectors in their report at the end of last year.
A trust spokesman said, despite the increase, the amount spent on agency nurses was still in the bottom third of trusts in Yorkshire and the Humber region.
The spokesman said: "In July 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published 'Safe staffing for nursing in adult inpatient wards in acute hospitals'.
"The guideline identifies organisational and managerial factors that are required to support safe staffing for nursing, and makes recommendations for monitoring and taking action if there are not enough nursing staff available to meet the nursing needs of patients.
"When planning staffing requirements, these and other guidelines such as the National Quality Board's guide to nursing, midwifery and care staffing capacity and capability must be followed."
Karl Norwood of the RCN in Yorkshire and Humberside said: "Over-reliance on agency staff is bad for continuity of care and that is bad for patients.
"Cutting the supply of nurses by reducing training places was reckless and short-sighted but these were pushed through in an ill-thought-through attempt to save money.
"The NHS is under immense pressure and it is now time for serious workforce investment and sensible, long-term workforce planning at a national level. Anything less will be selling future generations severely short."