Hospital trust cuts £1.6m in agency bills

Staff at Wigan Infirmary
Staff at Wigan Infirmary

Wigan’s hospital trust has reduced its spending on agency staff by £1.6m in the past year, according to new figures.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) has revealed it spent £7,161,852 on agency staff in the 2015/16 financial year, down from £8,739,705 in 2015/16, a reduction of £1,577,853.

The trust continues to try to reduce its reliance on agency staff against the national challenges facing all trusts due to medical staff shortages in certain specialities

Alison Balson

The reduction has been achieved since new rules were introduced last year to help trusts cut the amount they were having to spend on temporary employees to fill gaps in their own staffing.

Alison Balson, director of workforce at WWL, said: “Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust can confirm that compared to the same period last year we have made a £1.6m reduction in agency costs.

“We are pleased with the reductions achieved in reducing agency spend and work in accordance with NHS Improvement requirements where quality is maintained and there is no patient risk.

“The trust continues to try to reduce its reliance on agency staff against the national challenges facing all trusts due to medical staff shortages in certain specialities.”

The measures were brought in after the NHS spent more than £3bn on agency staff in 2014/15 and some trusts requested help negotiating with agencies and bringing staff back into the NHS.

And, according to NHS Improvement, they have resulted in an overall saving of £600m by the NHS in the year since they were first introduced.

Almost three quarters of trusts, 73 per cent, have now successfully reduced their agency spend, and over half of these have reduced spend by more than a quarter.

But health chiefs say there is still a need to make further reductions to balance the books.

Despite the monthly spend now being around 20 per cent less than it was at the same time last year, the sector is still spending £250m a month on agencies. As a result, NHS Improvement is bringing in a new raft of measures in a bid to further reduce spending. These include publishing a league tables of the best and the worst trusts for agency spending, additional reporting to NHS Improvement, including shifts that cost over £120 an hour and collecting anonymised information on the 20 highest earning agency staff, per trust, and of long-standing agency staff. But the British Medical Association, which represents NHS employees, called the league tables “nothing but a sticking plaster”.