Bury St Edmunds: Hospital spending on temporary staff is treble government guidelines

Jon Vale jon.vale@archant.co.uk
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
8:00 AM

A hospital has defended its staffing policy after new figures revealed it spends around treble the national average on temporary workers.

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West Suffolk Hospital spent £12.6 million on nonpermanent staff in the last full financial year - 11.3% of its total workforce spending - according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

The figure could even increase this year as the trust has spent a further £8.6 million in the six months from April 1 to October 31, an increase in proportion to 12.9%.

Jan Bloomfield, the hospital’s director of workforce and communications, attributed this year’s rise to meet “a significant increase in demand” where agency cover was brought in.

She added: ““Like many other hospitals, we have found it difficult to fill some vacancies due to nationwide shortages of suitable staff. At these times, we have had to use temporary cover to ensure we continued to offer safe, effective and high quality services to our patients.

““However, we are pleased to have successfully appointed more substantive staff during recent months, including middle-grade doctors for the emergency department, 14 newly-qualified nurses and 62 registered nurses from Portugal.

“We now have very few nursing vacancies across the hospital and have reduced our use of temporary staff significantly as a result.”

The Department of Health’s procurement programme, published in August 2013, calls for NHS foundation trusts to spend only around 4% of workforce budget on nonpermanent staff, which is the national average.

The latest figures, for the financial year 2011/12, show the highest proportion spent by any NHS foundation trust nationally was 9.9%, although there is a consensus that the practice is increasing across the industry.

A separate FoI has revealed the trust spent £850,000 on “off-framework” staff during the financial year 2012/13.

The government has set up a procurement programme of “framework” agencies to be used across the NHS to benefit from economies of scale.

There is huge discrepancies between the amounts of money different NHS trusts spend, with some using solely framework agencies while others spend millions on off-framework services.

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