CASH-STRAPPED Stafford Hospital forked out almost £1,800 to a nursing agency for a specialist to cover a holiday shift at the beleaguered A&E department, it was revealed this week.The hospital, declared financially and clinically unsustainable by healthcare regulators Monitor last week, revealed through a Freedom of Information request they had paid £1,794.32 for the nurse to work 13.5 hours over a bank holiday at the A&E unit in December 2011.
The payment, which marks a trend in NHS organisations to rely on agency workers to plug gaps in staffing, represents a significant increase over what a staff member in the same role would be paid.
The same month, the Trust paid £1.475.38 for a 13.5 hour shift to a general agency nurse, also over a bank holiday.
Colin Ovington, MSFT Director of Nursing and Midwifery said: “On occasion we have to employ agency medical staff.
“In these circumstances we put patient safety above cost," he said.
“This means we have to pay the going rate for those staff who are available to cover, sometimes at short notice – these costs are often extremely high, due to the agencies’ fees.”
Mr Ovington said in the two cases identified the payments were for nurses working double shifts over bank holidays which always attracted higher agency charges adding that the payments included travel expenses.
In the period 2010 to 2011 Mid Staffs spent £3,415,864 on medical agency staff, in 2011 to 2012 that figure rose to £4,218,753.
So far, between April and October 2012 the trust has spent £2,158,418.
The trust spent £1,953,034 on nursing agency staff in the 2010-2011 period, £1,191,553 in the 2011-2012 period and to date £684,327 between April and October 2012.
The Department of Health was forced to give the financially challenged trust £20million last year to cover its debts.
Monitor’s report highlighted the trust would need to make £53million of savings in five years and would still require a further £73million subsidy from the Department of Health to break even.