£13m spent on agency staff at Doncaster hospitals

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ANGRY unions have criticised health bosses after the trust which runs Doncaster’s hospitals increased its spending on agency staff by more than £1 million.

The public sector health workers union Unison is concerned over the rise from £11.8 million in 2009-10 to £13.1 million which was paid to agencies at a time when some staff have been made redundant in support jobs.

The figures have been published by the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for the last financial year.

The trust runs sites including the Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Mexborough Montagu Hospital and Bassetlaw Hospital. It has defended the agency spending levels, which it says was mostly on medical staff.

Doncaster’s area organiser for the public workers union Unison, Rianne Johnson, said: “The cost of agency staff in 2010/11 has actually increased and is now costing taxpayers a staggering £13.1 million at the same time as our members in the nurseries have been made redundant.

“At the same time cleaners, porters and laundry staff - the lowest paid in the entire NHS - are facing restructure, threats to job security, changes to terms and conditions and the prospect of outsourcing.”

She said paying staff through agencies cost more than paying staff on the trust’s own payroll.

She added: “It is ridiculous. The annual report said we needed to save £16.5 million. If you are taking that money out of the budget, it will impact on potential care because it is a more expensive way of recruiting staff. The increase alone is the equivalent of 12 nurses jobs.”

Unions are also calling for information about the amount which was paid to employ the acting chief executive at the trust, Dr Peter Reading, which was also through an agency. The trust says details of all directors’ and non-executive directors’ pay would be published in the annual report and accounts, which would be available in August or September.

A trust spokesperson added: “We spent £13.1 million on agency staff in 2010-11. Most of this expenditure was on locum medical staff, who are essential to providing services.

“Without them, we would have to close services. We have had an increase in agency costs in line with our increased activity. In accident and emergency, for example, where we relied on some locum staff during the year, patient numbers increased by 5.5 per cent in 2011-12, on activity in 2009-10.

“As with most other trusts, in some specialities we have found it difficult to recruit permanent medical staff, particularly in A&E, an issue we have brought to the attention of health minister, Simon Burns MP, when he visited us.

“However, we have an active programme of recruitment. Since the beginning of April, we have recruited three consultants.”

She added interviews for four A&E posts had been held this month, and there were interviews for a further 10 consultants and speciality doctors lined up.

“We are confident these confirmed and further appointments will mean we can make significant savings on agency costs in this financial year,” she said.

Meanwhile, the trust has now appointed a permanent chief executive to replace Nigel Clifton, who died last August, and interim boss Mr Reading.

Ron Calvert has been appointed from Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust, and will start in Doncaster in September.

Mr Calvert said: “I am delighted to be joining Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals Foundation Trust as Chief Executive. 

“These are challenging times across the NHS, but I am confident that I will be well-supported by the workforce at DBH so that we can build upon the good work which has already been established at the Trust.”