Hospital bosses in Sheffield have spent more than £90 million on agency staff over the last four years – the equivalent to the average annual salaries of nearly 4,000 nurses.
The figures – revealed as part of The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign – show £91.8m was paid out by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to agency staff between April 2013 and March 2017.
Hospital bosses say they have seen a ‘continual reduction’ in agency spend since 2014.
Mark Gwilliam, director of human resources at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “Wherever possible we recruit to permanent positions and the spend on agency staff is less than 2.8 per cent of our total pay bill.”
But trade union Unison, which represents frontline workers, said experienced staff were leaving the trust because they were under increasing pressure.
John Campbell, Unison branch secretary at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said bosses needed to ask why staff were leaving.
And the Royal College of Nursing said ‘over-reliance on short-term staffing’ was getting worse while fewer nurses were being trained.
John Campbell, Unison branch secretary at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “The trust should be looking at the number of staff leaving the trust and asking why they are leaving. Experienced staff are leaving.
“Sickness levels are at a level which probably make Sheffield the worst in the region at all bands. ”
Mr Campbell claimed: “Staff are applying for flexible working and being told it’s not possible as there are not enough staff.
“Organisational change in some areas means rotas are changing and pressure on staff with families means some have left due to the trust not being a family friendly organisation.”
Freedom of Information figures show Sheffield Teaching Hospitals spent £20,440,000 in 2013/14 on agency staff – rising to £27,546,000 in 2014/2015.
The trust spent £26,759,000 in 2015/2016 – but the latest figure shows a huge reduction to £17,136,000.
The fall of nearly £10m is down to a nationwide cap on the amount of money hospital trusts can spend on agency staff and has saved the NHS over £600m in a year.
Mark Gwilliam, director of human resources at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said: “We have seen a continual reduction in the amount we spend on agency staff over the last few years and last year we saw another 36 per cent cost reduction on the year before.
“Wherever possible we recruit to permanent positions and the spend on agency staff is less than 2.8 per cent of our total pay bill.
“For example we have recently recruited over 380 nurses and 360 clinical support staff and none of those were agency staff.
“In a trust of our size there will be some occasions when we need to cover periods of sickness, maternity leave and other instances which need short-term cover but we explore all other options first before resorting to agency staff in these instances.”
Glenn Turp, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing in the Yorkshire and Humber, said the government had to tackle the ‘nursing crisis’ and come up with strategy to recruit and retain nurses
He added: “The over-reliance on short-term staffing in the NHS has been getting worse for years and won’t be fixed overnight.
“Trusts are struggling to recruit and retain nurses, whilst the number of nurses being trained in the UK has been reduced for short-term financial reasons.”