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Hunt finally puts cosh on expensive agency staffing

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt belatedly put rip-off NHS agency staffing in his sights yesterday.

Agencies set the NHS back &pound3.3 billion last year, more than the combined cost of all 22 million A&E admissions.

Hunt announced he would introduce a maximum hourly rate for agency doctors and nurses and cap the total amount each trust is allowed to spend on agency staff.

He also said he would place an immediate cap of &pound50,000 on management consultancy contracts.

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham slammed his counterpart’s dithering.

“Jeremy Hunt is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by acting as if the &pound3 billion agency bill is a problem he has suddenly discovered,” he said.

“The truth is that it is a problem created by Tory mismanagement of the NHS.”

Con-Dem ministers cut 6,000 nursing posts and slashed training places during the last Parliament, said Mr Burnham, leading to the “monumental waste of NHS resources” on agencies.

Trade unions also made it clear that Mr Hunt should have acted sooner.

“Unite and the other health unions raised this very issue with Jeremy Hunt on January 20 this year during the pay negotiations,” said Unite head of health Barrie Brown.

“The Health Secretary has been slow to get to grips with the spiralling-out-of-control agency budget.

“Media reports that some of the bosses of these staffing agencies are living a five-star high life on the profits levered out of the financially challenged NHS will sicken those on waiting lists for hospital treatment.”

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