Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SPENDING ON TEMPORARY NURSES 'HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED UNDER LABOUR'; Hospitals Pay U230m a Year for Agency Staff

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SPENDING ON TEMPORARY NURSES 'HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED UNDER LABOUR'; Hospitals Pay U230m a Year for Agency Staff

Article excerpt

Byline: MAXINE FRITH

THE cost of plugging chronic nursing shortages in London hospitals with private agency staff has continued to soar - despite frantic government attempts to reduce the bills, it was revealed today.

Figures seen by the Evening Standard show the capital's hospitals spent almost u230 million on agency nurses for the financial year ending April 2002 - up 13 per cent on the previous year. Forty per cent of nursing posts in some hospital departments are vacant, meaning bosses have to use private agencies.

Spending on temporary nurses has more than doubled since Labour came to power, according to figures obtained by Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow.

As London hospitals are struggling to reduce multimillion-pound deficits, the figures show 13 per cent of the capital's nursing wage bill now goes to private agencies that make huge profits out of the NHS recruitment crisis.

And one of the key planks of government attempts to reduce the costs - the setting up of the NHS's own "in-house" agency - has already run into severe difficulties, with hospitals claiming it is unreliable and costing them even more.

Mr Burstow said: "Ministers must wake up to the nursing crisis in the capital. Recruitment and retention of nurses depends on the ability of the NHS to compete effectively with other employers. With low wages, high pressure and no affordable housing, Trusts are fighting a losing battle to keep their permanent staff."

He added: "London is the agency nursing capital of Britain. Filling hospital vacancies with agency staff is a short-term solution by short-sighted ministers that short-changes taxpayers and patients."

Nurses can earn more than twice as much an hour working for a private agency as doing the same job in the same hospital for the NHS.

And with some agencies charging hospitals 30 per cent commission on top of the nurse's pay rate, some London Trusts are spending millions each year on temporary staff.

The case of Jason Warriner, an HIV nurse at Ealing Hospital, illustrates the point. He earns u12 an hour when working directly for the NHS. However, on his days off he works for an agency, goes to the same hospital and earns u22 an hour for the same shift. …

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