Maternity-unit cash ‘wasted’ instead of employing more staff
ALMOST £18 million has been splurged on agency midwives in just one year — enough to employ 511 full-time staff.
Agency spending by NHS trusts rocketed by 75.7 per cent in two years from more than £10 million in 2012 to £17.8m in 2014, figures revealed yesterday by the Royal College of Midwives showed.
And the variation in the amount of agency spending among the 136 trusts in England was huge.
While about two-thirds did not use agency staff between 2012 and 2014, one, Morecambe Bay, paid out nearly £4.5m in the same period.
More than 11 trusts spent more than £1 million on agency staff over the three years.
The college — the midwives’ trade union — says staff shortages should be eliminated by employing more midwives and offering incentives to existing staff to work overtime and cover shifts.
More than 43 of the 130 trusts that responded to the union’s Freedom of Information request said that they had used agency staff at some point. Trusts had an average spend of £49 per hour on agency staff in 2014.
But, shockingly, college members on agency shifts reported a wage of just £22.84 per hour — showing half the cash was splurged on agency fees and other costs.
The average spend figure of nearly £50 is more than 2.7 times the hourly amount of a permanently employed midwife and more than 1.8 times the overtime rate.
College employment relations director Jon Skewes said: “This is an incredibly expensive and wasteful way to staff maternity units, especially because over half the spend per hour that the trusts are paying is not going to the midwives but on costs going to the agencies.
“We have found that many midwives who chose to work for an agency did so because they were denied the right to work part-time or flexibly.
“We have a ridiculous situation when midwives leave an organisation because they can’t work flexibly and then are employed by the same trust as an agency midwife.”
Shadow public health minister Andrew Gwynne blamed Prime Minister David Cameron for breaking his promise to recruit 3,000 more midwives.
The Department of Health said a shift rate cap for NHS staff was introduced last November to limit the amount companies can charge per shift for all staff.