The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)

‘Incredible’ spending spree on agency nurses

HEALTH: Cost of nurse cover in Tayside spirals to £9m a year

- Gareth Mcpherson Political Reporter

Spending on agency and bank nurses to cover workforce gaps has soared by a third in Tayside to nearly £9m a year, new figures show.

The rise comes as the number of nurses and midwives on the health board’s books fell by 119 in just a month, according to the NHS Scotland data.

Liz Smith, the Conservati­ve MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said the “incredible” figures shine a light on staff shortages on our wards.

Tayside saw its agency and bank nurse bill go up from £6.7m to £8.8m in a year, the latest figures for 2015/16 show. Five years ago the health board was forking out £3.5m a year.

While Fife has seen its spending on its agency and bank nursing staff go down on last year, its annual bill has risen from £5m in 2010/11 to £8m in 2015/16.

The IDS figures also revealed the number hours worked by such staff has gone up by 62% in Tayside and 29% in Fife since 2011.

Ms Smith said: “Everyone accepts there will be time when cover needs to be called in, and that this cover comes at a price. However, for so many hours to be filled by non-permanent staff members is quite incredible.”

She added: “The Scottish Government must ensure that hospitals in Tayside and Fife are properly staffed and funded.”

George Doherty, human resources director at NHS Tayside, said they “sometimes face hard-to-fill vacancies in some specialiti­es” but take a “proactive approach to avoiding unnecessar­y reliance on use of agency personnel”.

That includes targeting new nursing and midwifery graduates, Mr Doherty revealed.

He added: “While some short or longer-term workforce requiremen­ts can mean the use of agency staffing is necessary, our nursing and midwifery policies ensure that any use of agency nurses is only considered as a final option.”

Health secretary Shona Robison said nationally the spend on agency nurses has fallen since 2006 and in the latest figures accounted for just 0.4% of overall staffing numbers.

She added: “However, we know more needs to be done and earlier this year we launched a new initiative, in partnershi­p with NHS National Services Scotland, to drive down the cost and use of all temporary agency staff.”

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