NHS pays £1,600 a day for nurses as agency use soars
LONDON,July 15: Experts said many hospitals had made swingeing cuts to their workforce - only to find that they were left short-staffed, and forced to pay far higher rates to bring in workers at short notice Photo: Getty
The number of shifts filled by the temporary workers has risen by more than 50 per cent in a year - with private agencies receiving more than seven times the rate paid to nurses on the pay roll.
Experts said the disclosures show how hospitals' attempts to improve their efficiency have backfired, with jobs being cut, only for temporary staff to be hired at vastly inflated rates.
The scale of job losses is fiercely disputed, with unions claiming thousands of frontline posts have gone since 2009 while ministers say less than 500 posts lost involve nurses.
Meanwhile, the number of nurses from overseas who have registered to work in Britain has soared by 70 per cent in just two years.
Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act show that since 2009, private agencies have been paid up to £1,600 per shift to provide the health service with specialist nurses, compared with an average rate of around £212 a day for those on the NHS pay roll.
General nurses were on rates of up to £1,400 a day, compared with average pay of £188 for those on health service contracts.
Our investigation found:
* Derby Hospitals Foundation trust paid £1,632 for a specialist nurse to work a 12-hour shift in its Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit - a rate equivalent to an annual salary of £229,500. The NHS pays between £25,528 and £34,189 for the same role. The same trust spent £1,399 on a 13-hour shift for a general nurse;
* Princess Alexandra Hospital trust in Essex spent £1,356 on a shift for a specialist nurse to work 12.5 hours in April 2010. Last year the trust announced plans to cut 250 staff posts in order to find savings.
* Mid Staffordshire Foundation trust paid £1,303 for a specialist nurse to work a 10.5 hour shift last December, and £1,061 for a general nurse;
* Figures from NHS Professionals, which supplies a pool of "bank staff" to hospitals, show that in just 12 months, the total number of nursing shifts filled by agency workers has risen by 51 per cent;
Previous investigations by this newspaper have disclosed doctors being hired at rates of £20,000 a week to cover hospital staff shortages caused by European rules.
Although the NHS has been protected from cuts by being guaranteed a rise in annual spending in line with inflation, the service is attempting to save £20 billion by 2015, to ensure there are sufficient funds to cope with the rising demands of an ageing population.
Experts said many hospitals had made swingeing cuts to their workforce - only to find that they were left short-staffed, and forced to pay far higher rates to bring in workers at short notice.