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.
The government spends nearly £2bn a year on external consultants, often without adequately measuring value for money, a committee of MPs has said.
Whitehall spent £1.8bn of the public sector’s £2.8bn bill for 2005-6, a 33% rise in three years, the report said.
Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh said tighter controls could save £500m a year.