Read my piece here on the alarming cost of hospital agency staff:
Last week the Commons Health Select Committee had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health.
A number of pertinent issues including the much talked about 7 day NHS proposals, the looming crisis in adult social care and the strategy to achieve £22bn of efficiency savings
I welcomed the opportunity to ask the minister about the alarming rise in agency staffing costs - from £1.8bn to a staggering £3.3 billion.
The recently published Carter interim report has revealed that there has been a 29% increase in the number of qualified nurses leaving the profession. The increase in spend has been exacerbated by growing numbers of unfilled vacancies.
It has also been widely suggested that low morale within the NHS has played a significant role in a reducing workforce, leading to increased reliance on agency staff. The vast majority of NHS staff have experienced a pay freeze during the last four years, in real terms, a 15% pay cut – The 1% pay uplift that George Osborne in his most recent budget was a very bitter pill to swallow for many.
Jeremy Hunt acknowledged 'that morale is not good in the NHS at the moment'. He conceded that 'agency spending had gone far too far' and the NHS found itself in a position where 'Trusts were using agency staff to meet daily pressures'.
Hunt referred to numbers of Nurses having increased nationally but this isn’t the case in our region. In the Yorkshire and Humber region the overall numbers of qualified nurses has reduced since 2010. On top of this, in 2010 the coalition government cut the number of nurse training positions which has led to 12.7% fewer university places being commissioned by the NHS.
This Saturday the Yorkshire Post newspaper revealed that Yorkshire Hospitals are spending £113 million on agency fees with the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, which runs Dewsbury Hospital, spending the most in 2014/2015 despite having only budgeted for £7 million. This compares to Rotherham who spent £9.5 million and Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals who spent £13.1 million during the same period.
Paula Sherriff MP said 'The Health secretary has admitted that the overuse of agency nurses does not produce higher standards of care and that too much money is spent in this area. Whilst I welcome a cap on fees for agency staff, I have real concerns in the short term of how this is going to address the current nursing shortage.'
'Where are the qualified nurses going to come from at a time when nurse training places have been cut and the Government, under their EU negotiation plans are planning to send 30,000 qualified overseas Nurses back to their country of origin?. There are serious questions that need answering and it's still unexplained as to how, when the Government claims to have increased the number of Nurses nationally, the Yorkshire region has seen a reduction.'