Agency workers cost Morecambe Bay hospitals trust an extra £8.6m

The Westmorland Gazette: Furness General Hospital Furness General Hospital

THE use of agency staff has seen the trust that runs hospitals around Morecambe Bay overspend by £8.6m on staffing.

According to Aaron Cummins, finance director for the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), it had to call in agency locums which cost it £5.1m more than planned in the year up to the end of February.

It also overspent by £2.1m on nursing and midwifery staff and £1.4m on ‘other’ staff.

But he said: “Improvement within the next quarter is expected due to medical appointments in both doctors and nursing staff.”

The figures were revealed in a report to the UHMBT board, which also said the trust was forecasting it would have a deficit of £19.9m at the end of the financial year – half a million pounds worse than planned.

But David Wilkinson, director of workforce and organisational development, defended the use of agency staff, saying they played an ‘important role’ in allowing the trust to continue offering care when ‘there may be gaps in rotas’.

“The single biggest cost of agency spend is locum doctors. This includes cover for vacant positions and additional capacity to support increased activity,” he said.

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“The trust has been working extremely hard over the last 12 months to not only fill long-standing vacancies across the trust but also invest in more clinical staff so we have appropriate staff to cover absences such as sickness, leave and maternity or paternity leave.”

He said the trust had taken on more consultants and middle-grade doctors at both Furness General Hospital and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, while 130 additional nurses had been taken on across the trust over the last year.

Anyone interested in working at the trust is urged to visit www.uhmb.nhs. uk and click on the link for ‘latest UHMBT vacancies’.

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