AGENCY workers are costing hospital bosses more than £500,000 a month.
The money laid out by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Calderdale and Huddersfield hospitals - comes at the same time as figures show high staff sickness rates.
Board members of the trust heard that £601,121 was spent on agency staff in January alone.
The total layout for the past year was £4,475,338.
In December, £520,755 was spent on agency and bank staff.
Figures quoted in February’s board papers show an average of 12.5 days were taken sick per employee at the trust between April 2009 and March 2010.
The figure is almost double that of the private sector, which has a national average of 6.6 days.
The board report also quoted the Yorkshire and Humber NHS average as being 8.9 days per employee.
Julie Hall, director of personnel and development, told the board sickness absence “has effects in relation to patient care as well and knock-on effects to some of the other indicators, in how much we have to spend to backfill gaps to continue delivering services”.
A trust spokeswoman said: “The trust has many initiatives under way as we try to help staff stay well and in work so we can continue to deliver high-quality care.
“These include a workforce wellbeing initiative aimed at reducing stress- evels and promoting healthy lifestyles. “This winter we have been through a period of high flu levels and at times when sickness levels are high we will always pay for cover to make sure we can continue to deliver the care our patients need and expect.”
Pauline Pilcher, the Trust’s branch secretary for Unison, said she was not surprised by the amount spent on agency staff.
“That’s what it costs now,” she said. “You have to have staff to deliver the care.
“The bottom line is you need your front-line to deliver the activity on wards and being on the front-line means you are more at risk of picking up infections. It’s just part of the job.
“It does make you wonder if it would be different if there were more staff on the wards as it could be down to the work demand that makes people poorly.
“In our wellbeing groups we’re looking at what makes people go off sick and what we can do to help people in those areas.
“And we have an ageing workforce as far as nursing is concerned.
“There are fewer nurses coming through university and fewer students and pupils on the wards, who used to help the workload.”