NHS England paying thousands for agency workers amid workforce gap

New figures obtained by the labour government through freedom of information (FOI) requests have showed NHS England are paying more than they can afford for agency health workers. 

NHS trusts in England have paid over £5,200 for agency doctors to work shifts at local hospitals. 

woman in black crew neck shirt wearing white face mask

The labour government have stated that low staffing levels have resulted in a significant rise in the use of temporary workers and are blaming the Conservatives, arguing they did not train enough doctors and nurses.

Through FOI requests, Labour examined various hospital trusts across England and had a response rate of about 40%. The government discovered one in three of those who responded paid an agency more than £3K for a single doctor’s shift last year, while three quarters paid more than £2K.

The agency worker who was paid the most for a shift came from the NHS Foundation Trust in Greater Manchester, and they received £5,234.

In addition, health trusts were also found to have spent £6bn on so-called bank staff, which are comprised of NHS professions paid to work temporary shifts, including employees looking for extra work.

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Trusts are having to breach the caps on how much they pay for agency doctors because of the extremely high levels of demand they are facing for their services.

‘The staffing crisis is so desperate that they either pay these fees or find that their rotas cannot be staffed lately, leading to reduces services for patients. This is particularly true in parts of the county where the NHS can struggle to recruit new staff.’

When hospitals are paying for agency workers, their rates have been capped at 55% above what an average employee would earn however, in November reports revealed that spending on agency health staff rose to £3bn last year, suggesting this cap has been dismissed.

Against this backdrop, the Conservative government have opposed these claims, stating a record number of staff have been recruited into the NHS. A Conservative spokesperson told the BBC 13000 health workers have been hired since September 2021 – 4000 doctors and 9000 nurses.

In an attempt to increase their workforce and cut down on costs, Northern Ireland announced an agency social worker ban from June 2023 last month. The countries Chief Social Worker, Aine Morrison, has said the ban will hopefully encourage more workers to take permeant contracts, strengthening the workforce.

The information that the Labour government found through FOI requests covered the 2021/22 financial year.

Photo by Cezar Sampaio


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