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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Campaign demands cap on agency costs at hospitals in Cumbria

THE premium costs of agency hospital staff should be capped by the government – according to a campaign group.

The NHS trust which runs hospitals in Barrow, Kendal and Lancaster has paid out £4.3m on agency staff so far this financial year.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust also paid an agency £2,500 to provide one doctor for a single bank holiday shift in May.

But National Health Action Party spokeswoman Kathryn Anderson, a former nurse, has called for government action.

NHAP is a political party formed in 2012 in opposition to the coalition’s Health and Social Care Bill.

Ms Anderson said: “The outrageous amounts paid for agency staff is just a symptom of a situation created by this government through its cuts to NHS staff and funding.

“Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has decimated nursing numbers, with around 4,000 senior nurses axed since the Tories came to power, so hospitals are left with little choice but to hire extra staff to plug the gaps.”

David Wilkinson, director of workforce and organisational development at the trust, said the trust was trying hard to reduce its reliance on agency spending.

He said: “We know that as a trust our spending on agency staffing is too high and we have been reliant on agency staff, but our plans are to continually reduce this through investing in our own frontline people.”

Mr Wilkinson said the trust had hired 221 more frontline clinical staff since April 2013 and was continuing a recruitment drive.

But Ms Anderson said: “The Royal College of Nursing estimates we are short of 20,000 nurses so it’s no surprise that agency staff are being used.

“It’s just shocking that huge amounts of money are being wasted that could be spent on employing nurses and on other front line care.”

She called for the government to set a cap on the amount NHS providers can pay for using agency staff during the nursing shortage.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We encourage all trusts to maintain a tight grip on their staff costs and we will hold poor performers to account.”

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