Revealed: QA spends £11m on agency staff to cover shifts

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MORE than £11m has been spent so far this year on agency doctors and nurses at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

A Freedom of Information Act request by The News revealed Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Cosham site, paid out £11,853,785 for medical and nursing agency staff between January 1 and September 1.

Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham

Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham

The figure is higher than the same period last year and has almost doubled in the past five years with the figure in 2012 being £7.5m.

In March, £1.1m was spent solely on agency medical staff while August saw £1m spent on agency nurses.

August saw the highest combined spend of £1.9m. Every month saw a spend exceed £1m.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: ‘The NHS has worked for some time, both locally and nationally, to reduce agency costs.

‘Within Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust specific action has been taken to target our hard-to-recruit positions and those posts with high agency spend.

‘Ensuring patient safety is essential to the hospital trust and this strategically determines our staffing requirements. Agency staff are used to supplement our existing staffing if necessary.

‘There is a robust process to agree staffing levels required based on the acuity of patients and national standards. These are managed via daily staffing meetings and continuously reviewed during the day.

‘Agency workers are used when internal methods to cover and secure patient safety are insufficient.’

The trust added it tried to fill gaps in staffing with their own employees first, but said that, when required, agency staff had to be used.

‘PHT always attempts to fill temporary staffing requirements with its own staff in the first instance,’ the spokeswoman added.

‘If this is not possible and to ensure patient safety is maintained agency may be used as necessary.’

The trust confirmed they did not set a budget for agency staff at the beginning of the financial year and the costs came from the money given them to by Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group as part of their expenditure.

Portsmouth South Labour MP Stephen Morgan said more needed to be done by the government to plug staffing gaps in the NHS.

‘Our NHS is in crisis under the Tories, at the heart of which is complete failure on recruitment and retention,’ he said.

‘The last thing our cash-strapped hospitals need is to be forced to spend millions on agency staff to plug gaps caused by the government’s disastrous pay-cap and bursary scrappage.

‘It is heart-breaking our brilliant NHS staff, who work so hard day in, day out, to care for us, feel so undervalued by this government.’

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North Tory MP, said MPs in the area need to meet to review some of the issues at QA Hospital.

‘There are some issues which persist with the QA and the number of agency staff being used is one of them,’ she said.

‘MPs in the area are keen to reconvene the regular meeting with all players in the local health service, not just the QA, to review progress against this and other challenges the hospital is still facing.’