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.
Midwives are considering strike action over the last pay deal offered to them.
It is the first time in the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) 125-year history that such a move has been discussed and reflects unhappiness within the profession at pay and conditions.
Earlier this week the survey of heads of midwifery in England found that midwifery services are struggling to keep up with the rising birth rate.
Delegates at the RCM’s conference in Brighton unanimously voted to ask the group’s governing council to consider balloting the college’s 37,000 members about industrial action, short of a strike.
Midwives have been offered a staged pay award of 2.5 per cent, but with the Retail Price Index inflation running at 4.5 per cent the RCM argues that the offer is in real terms a pay cut.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today announced it would ballot its members over industrial action in protest at the government’s decision to postpone part of this year’s pay award.
This is the first time the college has held a ballot for nationwide industrial action since it was founded in 1916. Although the college’s 300,000 members are only allowed to take industrial action that is not detrimental to patient care, a yes vote could still have major consequences for the NHS.
The RCN estimates that around 173,000 NHS nurses work an average of more than six hours unpaid overtime – equivalent to more than 1m hours of unpaid overtime – every week.
The college said the cost of covering this work with agency nurses would be a minimum of £13m per week.
The Prime Minister has allowed the NHS to plunge into crisis by becoming trapped in a “parallel universe of spin”, according to the new head of the Royal College of Nursing.
In a blistering attack on the Government’s running of the health service, Dr Peter Carter, the RCN general secretary, said cuts in jobs, services and training were catastrophic for the country and a “personal tragedy” for the Prime Minister.
Dr Carter, who will address his first RCN annual conference next week, said Tony Blair should admit Labour’s administration of the NHS had gone “fundamentally wrong”. He said Labour’s track record on the health service was far worse than that of the Conservatives, even though Mr Blair had poured in record funds.
Dr Carter, a former hospital trust chief executive, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never seen so much money go into the health service and I have never seen so much money wasted.”I