Spiralling cost of agency nurses at Weston General labelled ‘wrong’

PUBLISHED: 15:00 14 October 2017

Weston General Hospital.

Weston General Hospital.

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The high cost of agency nurses used to plug staffing gaps at Weston General Hospital got Mercury readers talking this week, with many calling for staff nurses to be given a pay rise.

A Mercury Freedom of Information request found the hospital’s spending on agency nurses has risen by 150 per cent in just a year, spiralling to £4.5million – the same amount the hospital must cut from its overall budget in 2017/18.

A total of four per cent of the hospital’s overall budget was spent on agency nursing in 2016/17, while a further six per cent was spent calling in locum doctors to cover shifts at short notice.

The hospital admits this must change, and has vowed to make reducing its agency spend a priority while ensuring patient safety is not compromised.

The Trust’s chief executive James Rimmer 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 Vanessa Webb said the high cost of agency nurses is ‘wrong’ when commenting on the Mercury’s Facebook page, and added: “These agency nurses earn way above NHS nurses… they are not any more trained.”

Wendy Beacham commented: “It’s completely wrong agency nurses are paid so much more for doing the same job on the same shift.

“Spend the money on training more permanent staff.”

The Mercury reported agency nurses can sometimes get paid up to three times as much as a normal nurse for a shift and many readers said you cannot blame them for signing up to an agency.

Ian Heathcock said: “Why would nurses want to work for the NHS when they can do the same job in the same hospital and get paid a decent wage?

“The answer is to pay nurses the rate they get from agencies, and then hospitals are saving money by not paying the agency fees.”

Lisa Edwards, who has experience of agency work, said it benefits a lot of people.

She wrote: “It allows flexibility and a wage that is paid for the hard work you put in.

“The pay is high but deserved, the stress is less, the opportunities are more.

“The question is why wouldn’t you consider it? It was the best move I made.”

MORE: Patient care could suffer at Weston Hospital as nurses in short supply.

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