Calderdale Royal Hospital’s agency bill sets pulses racing

Halifax MP Holly Lynch, top right, and Glenn Turp
Halifax MP Holly Lynch, top right, and Glenn Turp

The amount spent by Calderdale Royal Hospital on temporary nurses has been revealed as part of an investigation by the Halifax Courier.

Nearly £20m has been spent on temporary agency nurses at Calderdale Royal Hospital in the last four years.

According to a Freedom of Information request by the Courier, the figure more than doubled from £2.1m between June 2014 and March 2015 to £6m between April 2016 and March 2017, but fell slightly to £5.2m between April 2017 to March 2018.

Of the overall figure, £4.1m was spent on unqualified nurses. Nursing agency 24/7 was paid the most, receiving £4.7m, with the Thornbury agency receiving £4.6m. The highest amount paid to an agency in a single year was £2.2m to Thornbury in 2017/18.

Agency Imperial was paid £442 for 11.5 hours of cover in 2016/17, while the Capital agency was paid £411 for 11 hours of cover in 2015/16.

The Medacs agency received £2,700 for 64 hours of cover in 2016/17, while the Pulse agency received £1,000 for 26.5 hours of cover in 2014/15. Agency nurses worked more than 670,000 hours at the hospital over the last four years.

Holly Lynch MP (Lab, Halifax) said: “We know there are serious workforce issues in the NHS, and our own Trust is no exception. This is a major factor in the Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to look at reconfiguring hospital services.

“It is not surprising that so many nurses are taking time off for stress given the amount of pressure that the NHS has been under, particularly during this winter period.

“Such a high use of agency staff is putting more pressure on the Trust’s finances at a time when money in the NHS is scarce. Unless the government properly address both the funding and workforce crisis in our health service patient care is going to continue to suffer.”

Glenn Turp, Regional Director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Yorkshire and the Humber said: “We have been saying for some time that the lack of long-term workforce planning across the whole NHS is creating a risk to the sustainability of services and to patient care.

“Last year the Government removed the bursary for student nurses and this has already had an impact on the numbers of applicants hoping to train and qualify, whilst the current stresses on the entire health and care system are pushing experienced nurses to leave the NHS and even the profession.

“It is inevitable that Trusts like Huddersfield and Calderdale struggle to recruit staff, especially when the NHS has a shortage of 40,000 nurses, and are forced to turn to agency staff to fill the gaps left by poor planning and funding from central Government. Using agency staff to provide cover is often the only way hospitals can deliver safe care.

“We know that trusts in our region are putting in place measures to try and retain staff, but without proper financial support this situation is unlikely to improve.”

Chief nurse Brendan Brown, from the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, said: “In the latter part of 2017 we had seen our agency usage reducing before the impact from December of winter pressures seen in most hospitals across the county took effect. This Trust wants colleagues in all roles to feel supported and valued at work and we are always exploring new ways to try to improve the working environment for everyone.

“As part of that we have a Staff Well-Being Programme run by our occupational health teams which is accessible to all colleagues to offer extra support where needed, and a variety of flexible work patterns to help staff balance the needs of both their work and home lives.

“We have successful ongoing recruitment campaigns both locally and from overseas. Anyone interested in joining our teams should visit NHS Jobs for vacancies or contact Lead Nurse Recruiter Michelle Bamforth directly on 01484 355896.”