Tenfold rise in NHS Tayside agency nurse spend

Jenny Marra

Spending on agency nurses in Tayside has gone up almost tenfold in five years, new figures have revealed.

Locum spending across all departments in NHS Tayside rose from £2.895 million in 2011/12 to £9.716m in 2015/16.

This includes an increase of £2.653m between 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Nursing and midwifery staff made up the bulk of the dramatic rise.

Between 2011/12 and 2015/16, spending on bank nursing and midwifery staff rose from £565,000 to £5.54m.

It comes at a time when the board is being forced to make record savings of £214 million from its spending over the next five years.

Dundee-based MSP Jenny Marra blasted the figures, saying: “This is a huge problem because an agency nurse costs our NHS three times as much as a contracted NHS nurse. In the last year alone, spending on private agency nursing rose by 39% in Tayside.

“Tayside bosses need to get a grip on this urgently.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “NHS Tayside has a proactive approach to reducing reliance on agency cover. All decisions on staffing requirements are made to ensure the ongoing provision of safe and effective care for our patients.

“We are committed to reducing premium agency costs and our Transformation Programme is looking at best practice to manage the use of agency staff and reduce overall costs.

“We use medical and dental locums so we can cover gaps in our staffing caused by unavoidable occurrences where there are sudden, unexpected vacancies or leave. This ensures we can continue to deliver effective patient care and treatment.

“NHS Tayside, like all other health boards, has experienced difficulty in recruiting to certain specialities such as psychiatry and our locum expenditure has, in the main, been due to filling these gaps.

“The use of locum doctors is always a position of the last rather than the first option and the decision to employ a locum doctor is always made by a senior doctor in the organisation.

“With regards to our nursing and midwifery workforce, we use the NHS Scotland National Nursing & Midwifery Workload and Workforce Planning Tools that help determine recommended nurse staffing requirements.

“The Nursing/Midwifery Bank and Agency Policy provides guidance and an escalation process for staff to secure supplementary staffing. In this policy the use of agency staffing would be the final option.

“For the financial period between April and December this year the spend on premium non-contract agency nursing and midwifery staff has reduced by £747,000.

“We continue to actively recruit to both our full and part-time positions and we have opened up the opportunity for all registered nurses, midwives and healthcare support workers to join the NHS Tayside Nurse Bank to increase capacity and reduce our use of agency staff.

“We also have a proactive recruitment strategy, particularly of new graduates from universities and were successful last year in recruiting 211 newly qualified nursing practitioners.”