Recruitment of agency staff doubled in year at borough hospitals

Figures reveal a monumental increase in the money spent on agency staff
Figures reveal a monumental increase in the money spent on agency staff

Health chiefs have spent almost £1m on agency workers as they struggle to recruit staff.

The employment of temporary workers has more than doubled in the space of 10 months according to a recent Freedom of Information request to Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust (WWL).

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The figures, which cover from September 2017 to August 2018 reveal a monumental increase in the money spent on agency staff including nurses, care support workers and theatre practitioners.

A whopping £970,935 was spent in total in that 12-month period. In August, the trust spent £135,000 on agency staff, many thousands more than the £47,000 spent in October 2017.

As infirmary bosses say that a national shortage of applicants in certain fields has forced them to spend more and more on temporary workers, it was also revealed that hospital CEO Andrew Foster has recently returned from India where he has been recruiting doctors for Wigan and other health trusts across the North West

Vikki McManus, deputy director of human resources, said: “Agency spend has increased this year within WWL.

“This has been due to a number of factors, but is predominantly down to an increased number of vacancies, within both nursing and medical staffing groups.

“Within these groups are longstanding vacancies due to the national shortage of some roles within medical specialities and theatres.

“The trust has remained proactive to respond when vacancies have been seen to increase and is also committed to reduce agency spend where possible, with clear controls in place.

“The trust has had consistent success in keeping agency spend reduced in some specialities through the recruitment to our ethical education programme for overseas doctors, particularly within orthopaedics, but was impacted throughout the summer months due to the government’s cap on visas.

“The trust lobbied for the removal of this cap, however the delay meant increased agency spend to support the services whilst a resolution was found.

“The WWL trust board has oversight of all staffing pressures and ensures appropriate actions are taken.

“A number of schemes have been put in place to address this, however, we have seen an increase in agency staffing in order to ensure that we maintain safe and effective care for our patients.

“The trust also has a robust recruitment and retention strategy to ensure we have a planned approach to meeting the needs of the community in the immediate, mid and long term.

“Our workforce remains one of our top priorities at all times to ensure we have the right staffing to support the needs of our patients. This is particularly critical as we enter the winter period.”

Last year the chief executive of WWL Andrew Foster warned of an emerging staffing crisis due to the Government’s “under-funding” of the NHS.

More recently, figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council painted a worrying picture of a nursing “exodus” following the Brexit referendum.

The data, released in April, showed a significant rise in the number of nurses from Europe leaving the British register and a plummeting number applying to join.

The NMC said in 2017/18, 3,962 nurses from the EU left the register, an increase of 29 per cent from the previous year. The number of nurses from the European Economic Area (EEA) who have left Britain has been steadily increasing from 2013/14.

Meanwhile, the number of European nurses who joined the register in 2017/18 dropped by 87 per cent compared with the previous year, according to a new report from the NMC.

However despite these figures, hospital bosses maintain that Brexit has not been a significant contributing factor to its staff shortage.

Ms McManus added: “The trust does not have a high number of staff from the EU countries in comparison to some other Greater Manchester NHS trusts and we have not seen any information that identifies the vacancies are due to any of our staff leaving due to the UK exiting the European Union.

“We are supporting our EU staff with their applications for settled status should this be a route they wish to take.”