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Weston General’s spend on agency nurses rises by 150% to hit £4.5million

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 October 2017

Weston General Hospital.

Weston General Hospital.

Archant

Weston General Hospital is so short staffed its spending on temporary agency nurses has doubled in the past year to hit almost £4.5million.

The reliance on temporary nurses is threatening morale at the Weston-super-Mare hospital, as its own skilled nurses face working alongside agency staff getting paid three times their hourly wage while still having to supplement their limited knowledge of the hospital.

Weston Area Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has marked reducing its reliance on agency staff as a priority.

The Trust’s chief executive James Rimmer himself described agency staff as one of its ‘biggest risks’ at a recent meeting, adding they simply ‘don’t know’ the hospital’s systems.

MORE: Weston General Hospital announces budget cuts of £4.5million as bosses discuss performance, A&E, and finance.

But bosses say agencies must still be used as a ‘last resort’ to ensure patient safety, while the revamp of Southmead Hospital in Bristol has also been blamed for Weston General losing staff.

A Mercury Freedom of Information request revealed the hospital’s spend on agency nurses rose by 150 per cent from 2015/16 to 2016/17, at the same time as Weston General spent close to £6million on temporary doctors.

The rise means 10 per cent of the hospital’s £104million budget was used to cover unfilled shifts.

In the emergency department alone, £1.3million was spent on agency nurses in 2016/17, with the hospital regularly forking out £200,000 a month on temporary doctors for the department, too.

In intensive care, three times as much was spent on agency staff in 2016/17 compared to the year before, while a busy winter also accounted for a large proportion of the additional spending.

Weston nurse Malcolm Chalk, who is the Royal College of Nursing rep at the hospital, told the Mercury agency nursing is a ‘catch 22’, and added: “While the hospital is paying agency nurses, its own nurses are never going to get a pay rise.”

MORE: Weston nurses moonlighting as cleaners and using foodbanks as pay cap spells tough times.

Nurses’ pay is allocated in bands, with senior nurses in a higher banding getting paid more.

Malcolm said: “A&E nurses from an agency can get as much as £46 an hour – I’m at the top of my band and I get about £14.70.

“The problem, too, is people come in and they have got to be shown around the hospital; it takes time to learn our systems, our paperwork, our procedures.

“So, when agency nurses come in, they need a lot of support, and sometimes they end up not doing everything they should.”

MORE: New NHS vision for ‘healthy Weston’ puts future of A&E and maternity services at risk.

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