The NHS could free-up £480million for patient care if it stopped paying for expensive agency staff

Private firms charge a fifth more on average for doctors and nurses than hospitals pay their own workers for overtime.

The five most expensive locum doctors cost the NHS £2million a year, with one agency billing £480 an hour for one consultant.

It also charges £200 an hour for a further five, compared with £76.10 for those sourced from the NHS’s in-house service.

Workers can register with their in-house service, or “staff bank”, to let managers know they are available for overtime.

Hospital regulator NHS Improvement says all trusts should adopt a “bank first” approach and only use agencies when necessary.

This saves the NHS money and also increases the likelihood of patients being treated by the same staff throughout their stay.

Ian Dalton, from NHSI, said: “Bank staff cost the NHS less than agency staff and could improve a patient’s continuity of care. That is why we want trusts to take a bank first approach, and only use agency staff as a last resort.

“An over-reliance on high cost private agencies when there are other options available is not good for patients or for the NHS’s finances.”

Mr Dalton said trusts have cut their spending on agency by over a third, or £1.2bn, since a pay cap was introduced in 2015.

It means Trusts should not pay more than 55% above the standard rate and any costing more than £100 an hour must be signed off by the chief executive.

The measure has seen costs fall from £3.6billion in 2015/16 to £2.4billion in 2017/18. NHS Improvement wants a further 17% reduction in 2018/19.
Mr Dalton added: “These savings mean more money for other vital NHS services and ensure every penny the NHS spends counts.”

Over 150 locum doctors have been working at the same trust for over two years, with 14 doctors having worked at the same trust for over five years.
Almost 340 nurses have been reported as having worked over two years at trusts.

Health Minister Steve Barclay MP, said: “It is better for patients to have the continuity of care from existing staff picking up additional shifts, rather than using agency workers. Not only is the patient experience improved, but moving away from relying on paying expensive agency staff also means that the NHS saves money.”

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