Great Western Hospital shelled out more than £2,500 to pay an agency nurse for a shift, new figures reveal.
Data obtained by Labor in a freedom of information request shows Swindon hospital paid just over £16m for agency staff in 2021-22 to fill gaps in its healthcare.
And on one occasion, an agency nurse was paid £2,548.69 for a single 12-hour shift, the equivalent of £212.40 per hour.
The Labor Party received responses from 60 NHS Trusts across the UK, and the Great Western Hospital Trust’s payment for that single shift was the most expensive in the country.
A Great Western Hospital spokesman said his priority was always providing safe levels of patient care, and this meant he sometimes needed to bring in nursing staff through agencies to fill otherwise vacant shifts.
“Agencies don’t have capped fees, so they’re largely free to charge whatever they want. This means that the fees charged by the agency company can be expensive, especially when we need to cover shifts that require more support, such as mental health nurses or holiday coverage, as was the case on this occasion.”
The hospital added that it was taking steps to reduce the agency’s need for expensive staff, but further reiterated the impact of the national nursing staff shortage.
“We have focused our efforts on recruiting for the Bank, our own internal agency, which gives staff the opportunity to take more shifts and invites local people to work flexibly for the organization, reducing our dependency on workers. from the agency.
“We have also started a safer staffing programme, committing over £2m to recruiting and retaining staff across the Trust and have made good progress filling vital positions, including in registered nursing and not registered.
“However, what is clear is that this is occurring against the backdrop of a national nursing shortage and a very challenging environment for the workforce right now.”
The hospital was asked how many nursing positions were missing, but declined to confirm.
Total spending for agencies providing nurses and doctors at short notice across the NHS was £3bn. The figure represents a 20 per cent increase on the previous year, when the health service spent £2.4bn.
Trusts spent an extra £6bn on bank staff, when NHS staff are paid to do temporary shifts, bringing the total spent on extra staff to around £9.2bn.
South Swindon Labor MP candidate Heidi Alexander said: “Having recently visited Great Western Hospital, I know how hard everyone is working and the pressure the hospital is under. It is not the fault of the staff or management that we are in this situation.
“The responsibility lies squarely with the Government. For the past 12 years, the Conservatives simply haven’t trained the nurses and medical staff we need. Our local MP, Robert Buckland, voted to eliminate scholarships for nursing students six years ago and our hospital now has to shell out huge sums of money to hire agency workers.
“The government must rein in the agencies that are killing this crisis and they must embrace the fully funded and Labor Party funded proposals to train the staff the NHS needs.”
Labor says it would try to double the number of places in medical schools, create 10,000 new nursing and midwifery places and double the number of district nurses who qualify each year, and pay for it by abolishing non-dom tax status.
The Royal College of Nursing recently announced that its members voted to strike out of concerns over low pay and difficult working conditions.