The NHS has been grappling with an acute staff shortage. This has prompted many NHS trusts to turn to healthcare contractors. Usually, these trusts hire professionals through agencies, and the cost of hiring agency staff is much higher than paying full-time employees. Hospitals in Sheffield have been doing just this to fill gaps in their employee roster.
Figures show that Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has spent millions of pounds to hire agency staff. Between April 2013 and March 2017, the trust paid close to £91.8 million, a figure that is equivalent to the annual salaries of about 4,000 nurses.
However, hospital bosses claim that they have witnessed a reduction in spending related to agency staff since 2014. On the other hand, trade union Unison stated that the number of experienced staff leaving the trust is worrying and the bosses need to figure out why this is happening.
Healthcare contractors required, but funding an issue
A report on the trust’s spending reveals that there have been issues with filling critical vacancies, but the trust is not spending enough to fill nursing vacancies. Compared to what the trust spent in 2015/2016 in hiring agency staff, it has witnessed a reduction of £10 million in 2016/2017. It is believed that this reduction is because of the cap on the amount that hospital trusts can spend on hiring agency staff and not due to measures taken by the trust.
Unison Branch Secretary at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust John Campbell stated that the trust should try to learn why staff, and in particular experienced staff, are leaving. Sickness levels among the staff are high, and the trust’s response is to come out with a new attendance managing policy without getting an agreement from the staff.
NHS Improvement CEO Jim Mackey stated that NHS trusts do not have sufficient funds to spend on agency staff and are working hard to reduce their spending on healthcare contractors while trying to bring back medical staff into the fold of the NHS.