Leeds: £25 million on hospital agency medics

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Staff numbers are falling at Leeds hospitals.

But spending on agency medics increased by 88 per cent in a year.

More than £25m was spent on bank and agency hospital workers in the last financial year, up £4.4m from the previous 12 months.

Hospital bosses are currently implementing a massive cost-cutting plan to save £55m which will see their 13,000-strong workforce cut by 700 over three years.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust directors were told that the largest increase in flexible staffing was through spending on agency staff, which had gone up 88 per cent and most of this related to doctors.

A report said: “This is of concern on the grounds of quality and cost and work is in hand to better understand and therefore address issues with the medical workforce.”

Plans for new rosters are in place, along with more controls over bringing in locum doctors.

Spending on bank nurses has fallen through them being used less and a renegotiation of a contract.

Dr Pete Belfield, medical director, told the meeting that agency doctors were used to cover for sickness and for hard-to-fill vacancies, such as very specialist roles.

He added that often they were waiting for a doctor to be able to take up the job permanently.

“While we are waiting for someone to come off the production line, we recruit agency staff,” Dr Belfield said.

“In the stroke service we are waiting for a definitive recruit and we have had a locum in oncology for a short period of time.”

Overall, staff numbers at the hospitals trust fell by the equivalent of almost 80 full-time workers over the last financial year, down by 0.6 per cent.

That was a slowdown from the change the previous year, when numbers fell by 358 full-time staff between April 2009 and March 2010, a drop of 2.6 per cent.

Since April 2010, medical and dental staff have increased by 3.3 per cent, including 24 consultants’ jobs.

Numbers of nurses and midwives, healthcare scientists, administrative and estates staff all fell. A report said that reflected efforts to improve efficiency and reduce staff numbers.

There was a 3 per cent increase in employees in additional clinical services, which includes clinical support workers who help registered nurses and midwives. The report added: “The increase in this staff group is part of the programme to change the workforce profile within the Trust.”

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