£97m a year spent covering maternity services’ short-staffing
LABOUR called on the government to step in with a plan to address the NHS’s staffing crisis yesterday as a new report revealed a shortage of midwives is costing the health service £100 million a year.
A Royal College of Midwives (RCM) study showed the NHS had spent an astonishing £97 million on agency, bank staff and overtime last year as health bosses desperately tried to plug gaps in maternity services.
RCM spokesman Jon Skewes said the report showed clearly “our maternity services are understaffed and under-resourced,” with a shortage of 3,500 midwives in England.
He pointed out that the cash spent could have paid for 2,731 full-time experienced midwives or 4,391 newly qualified midwives, saying the government’s approach “smacked of short-termism.”
Shadow health minister Justin Madders warned that government underfunding of the NHS was “failing families in their time of need.”
He said: “It’s essential that hospitals are able to get the right number of midwives in place to keep mothers and their babies safe.
“Ministers must step in with a long-term workforce plan for the NHS and they should put an end to the self-defeating pay cap.”
The RCM report, based on Freedom of Information requests, revealed details of spending in 98 per cent of NHS trusts across Britain.
It showed that 24 NHS organisations in England spent more than £1 million on agency, bank or overtime staff in 2016, along with one body in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland.
The figures also revealed that hourly average spend for agency midwives was £44 compared with £18 for a staff midwife with 10 years’ experience.
Mr Skewes called for “sensible and strategic long-term planning,” warning that the increased use of agency and other temporary staff is counterproductive.
He said: “It is costing more in the long run to pay agency, bank and overtime than it would if services employed the right numbers of midwives in the first place.
“The first positive step the government could take is to end public-sector pay restraint and fully fund a pay rise for midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman claimed that the number of midwives in England was rising and the NHS had saved £700 million last year by “clamping down” on its use of agency staff.