'Shocking' cost of NHS temporary staff

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Tess White.Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Tess White.
Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Tess White.
The cost of agency and bank medical staff in Tayside has increased by more than 350% in seven years, according to “shocking” figures on NHS spending.

Workforce statistics published last week confirm annual spending in the region has reached £34.6 million – a major increase on the £9.6 million spent in 2014/15.

That figure is made up of £26.5 million used to pay for bank and agencies nurses – an increase of 96.6% on the previous year.

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A further £8.1 million was spent on locum doctors to temporarily fill staff vacancies – a rise of 55.8%.

The reliance on agency nurses was a particular issue with costs increasing 255.2% to £11.8 million in Tayside.

Overall, £423.4 million was paid out in the 2021-22 financial year for temporary medics and dentists, as well as agency nurses, as the service was forced to deal with the extra pressures from the Covid-19 pandemic and staff absences.

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Tess White said the figures are “shocking and shameful”.

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The North East MSP said: “They point to a health service which has been completely mismanaged on the SNP’s watch and, without urgent action, that is only going to get worse.

“It is simply unsustainable for our health boards to be shelling out millions on temporary staff at a time when they are already tackling an enormous backlog of patient operations.

"Our hospitals are crying out for permanent workforce yet the SNP seem content to allow this astonishing increase in spending on temporary staff to spiral out of control.

“We need to urgently see Humza Yousaf tackle the workforce crisis that is engulfing our NHS.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said that spend on agency nursing in Scotland during the pandemic – represents less than 1% of the overall staffing budget, with the majority of temporary staffing coming from the NHS Staff Bank, which has NHS staff on NHS contracts.

He said: “Despite the pressures of the pandemic we have already delivered a record number of GPs working in Scotland, with more per head than any other country in the UK, and we’re committed to further increasing the number of GPs in Scotland by 800 by 2027.”

“We are on track to meet that commitment and have also recruited over 2,400 healthcare experts through the GP Contract to support practices.

“We are fully aware of the difficult circumstances that boards and front-line staff are working in, which is why we have worked hard to ensure that our NHS maintains the increased numbers of staff we’ve seen over the past 10 consecutive years.

“Nursing and midwifery staff numbers are at record high levels across the country – up by 14.5%.”

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