The UK Government has capped the amount that NHS trusts can spend on agency staff, and this has created a problem not just for the healthcare contractors working for the NHS through agencies, but also for the understaffed trusts. However, a request put in through the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that certain NHS trusts are still spending a lot on agency staff.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust spent over £1.5 million between 21st September and 9th October to pay temporary staff. During this period, the trust used 613 temporary workers for a total of 32,867 hours.
Furthermore, the Freedom of Information request revealed that the NHS trust did not meet the agency price limit that the Government has enforced. This limit puts a cap on the amount that NHS trusts can pay locum doctors and other NHS contractors.
Typically, trusts hire agency doctors and other temporary staff when their hospitals are facing a staff shortage. These temporary workers are paid more than permanent staff. However, this move was restricted in November 2015 after the NHS Improvement Agency set a limit on how many more trusts could pay temporary workers.
Locum doctors can be paid 150 per cent more than regular full-time junior doctors, but in April 2016, this cap was reduced to 55 per cent. However, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust has not adhered to this limit, and the trust has breached the limit more than 100 times each week since it was enforced.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust Finance Director Jeff Buggle explained that the trust places a lot of emphasis on the safety of patients, and that is why sometimes it has to make use of agency staff to ensure that patients get the care that they deserve and require.
Buggle acknowledged that the trust has to work a lot to reduce the amount that it is spending on agency staff, but it hires agency staff only when in-house talent is missing.