Staff shortages have led a West Yorkshire hospital trust to breach caps aimed at cutting spending on temporary staff more than 23,500 times in just seven months.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt brought in limits on pay to clamp down on “extortionate” fees being charged for agency staff in November, with restrictions becoming stricter in April, but hospital trusts can breach the caps if there is “significant risk” to patient safety.
Figures uncovered by the YEP show that Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs hospitals in Wakefield, Dewsbury and Pontefract, has flouted the rules more than any other trust in Yorkshire – in some instances paying doctors more than £125 per hour to cover shifts.
The trust was criticised by regulator the Care Quality Commission for “significant” nursing staff shortages in December.
Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Paula Sherriff said: “Greater focus needs to be given to helping the trust overcome the longer-term staffing crisis.”
The Royal College of Nursing has said the agency cap is “not a solution to the long-term and system-wide causes of staffing shortages” and blamed “short-sighted” cuts to nurse training places for forcing trusts to bring in expensive agency staff.
Greater focus needs to be given to helping the trust overcome the longer-term staffing crisis.Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield.
Across Yorkshire, trusts have breached the spending limits for temporary staff more than 58,000 times since November. Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust recorded the second highest number of breaches (13,615).
A spokeswoman for regulator NHS Improvement said that agency caps have had a “positive impact”, saving the NHS up to £300million so far, and are driving down agency prices.
David Melia, of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, said it is reducing its breaches but maintained that “patient care and safety is the primary consideration”.