The NHS is spending millions of pounds each year on agency nurses, it emerged last night, with one hospital paying a nurse more than £1000 for a single shift.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information (FoI) laws show trusts are spending huge sums on expensive temporary staff a result of being forced to cut the number of permanent nurses.
The data reveals that Chesterfield Royal Hospital trust paid a senior staff nurse £98 an hour – or nine times the average for a full-time employee – to cover a Bank Holiday shift.
North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple paid an even higher hourly rate, recruiting a specialist paediatric nurse at £115.65 an hour.
The bill for an eight and a half hour shift on New Year’s Eve came to a total of £983.
The figures come from an FoI request to 138 hospital trusts, of which 58 replied.
Of the trusts which responded, 11 admitted having paid more than £700 for a single shift.
These included Portsmouth, Worcester Acute, Royal Cornwall, Yeovil, Taunton and Somerset, Shrewsbury and Telford, Southampton University, East Sussex and Stockport.
North Devon spent £3.98 million on agency staff last year – more than four per cent of its entire budget.
Earlier this year the Commons public accounts committee said more than £1 billion a year was being spent on agency nurses.
Almost a third of complaints about NHS standards are not being handled properly, according to the official health watchdog.
The Healthcare Commission claims in a report released today that many hospital managers, doctors and nurses do not listen to complaints or learn from their mistakes.
The way some trusts deal with grievances is fragmented and inconsistent, it says.
In its first audit of how complaints are managed, the watchdog sent warnings to 30 NHS trusts and told 12 of them there had been a “significant lapse” in how they handled patients’ concerns.
In the first instance, patients with a grievance must raise it with the healthcare provider involved, such as their GP, NHS trust, dentist or optician.
If they are not satisfied with the response, they can ask the Healthcare Commission to review their case.
The watchdog receives about 8,000 requests each year, and nearly a third of them are sent back to the trust for further action.
Cancer patients in almost all European countries survive longer after diagnosis than those in the UK. Only Eastern Europe does worse. The results are bad news for the NHS Cancer Plan, implemented in 2000.
Some of the latest results include patients treated after the plan began, but fail to show significant changes in relative success rates. The Lancet Oncology, in which the new data is published, does not pull its punches. “So has the cancer plan worked?” it asks. “The short answer is seemingly No.”
The new information comes from a group called Eurocare, which organises the largest cooperative study across Europe of cancer patients. In The Lancet Oncology, the group publishes two analyses, one covering patients whose disease was diagnosed between 1995 and 1999, and the second covering those between 2000 and 2002.
In general, five-year survival (generally a proxy for “cure”) is highest in Nordic Countries and Central Europe, intermediate in southern Europe, lower in the UK and Ireland, and lowest of all in Eastern Europe.
Almost half of hospital kitchens and/or canteens in England could be failing to meet cleanliness and hygiene standards, according to a survey by the Liberal Democrats.
Of the 377 hospitals surveyed, nearly a fifth kept food at the wrong temperatures or in unsafe conditions, while 11 had problems with vermin.
Problems such as cockroaches and mouse droppings in kitchens, medical waste on food handling equipment and poor personal hygiene in staff were also reported.
In addition, 173 hospital environments displayed poor cleanliness, 68 fell below the legal requirements for food storage and 107 did not have correct food safety documentation.
Norman Lamb MP, Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary, said: “These findings paint a shocking picture of hospital food hygiene in this country. It is simply unacceptable that such terrible practices are taking place in an environment where hygiene and safety should be paramount.”
Hospitals are facing problems as 30,000 junior doctors start jobs in England, the British Medical Association says.
According to the BMA, operations and clinics will have to be postponed as NHS trusts rush to fill vacant posts “up to the eleventh hour”.
There are twice the normal number of junior doctors beginning jobs on Wednesday because of a shake-up which has ended staggered start days.
The government says NHS trusts have plans to ensure services run properly.
The changes to start days, under the Modernising Medical Careers programme, is designed to speed up the time it takes to become a consultant.
It follows reforms in junior doctor training and the introduction of the controversial online Medical Training Application Service (MTAS), which has proved unpopular with junior doctors.
Nine out of 10 doctors fear current medical training reforms and cuts in hours will cause standards to fall, a survey has found.
The British Medical Association (BMA) questioned more than 2,200 doctors across the UK for their views on the Government’s overhaul of training.
Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) is designed to cut the length of time it takes to qualify as a consultant. But doctors have expressed fears that the reforms will result in important skills being missed out of training.
The steep rise in dementia in England is presenting a “significant and urgent challenge” to health and care services, yet the condition is still given low priority by the government and remains surrounded by misunderstanding and stigma, according to a study by the National Audit Office.
It says that, despite predictions that dementia cases will rise from at least 560,000 at present to more than 750,000 by 2020 and 1.4 million by 2051, too few people are being diagnosed early enough or at all, and early interventions that can help are not being made widely available.
The UK lags behind the rest of Europe, falling into the bottom third of countries providing patients with effective drugs, and taking up to twice as long on average to diagnose the illness as other countries, says the report, published months after a landmark Alzheimer’s Society study put the cost of dementia to the UK at £17bn.