Bill for nursing defended

HEALTH bosses defended their £1.7million bank and agency nursing bill this week, saying they had called in the health professionals to provide cover.

Scottish Government figures show bank nursing and midwives cost NHS Borders £1.44million in 2010, while hiring agency staff cost £277,000.

NHS Borders nursing and midwifery director Sheena Wright said: “NHS Borders engage agency nurses to ensure safe provision of our services as part of a supplementary workforce to cover urgent unplanned gaps in staffing such as sickness absence or sudden, unexpected vacancies.”

Last year health bosses nearly doubled the number of agency nurses and midwives’ hours from just over 5,450 to nearly 9,190. Similar bank staff time dropped by 40 hours on 2009, but cost the £1.44million, nearly £20,000 more.

Mrs Wright explained: “We have introduced sound controls to determine appropriate access to agency nursing and as a result we have reduced our average yearly spend whenever we use an agency nurse by £10,000 – a reduction of almost £50,000 in total. Over the year, we used an average of 4.7 whole-time equivalent staff from nursing agencies and while this is 0.4 per cent of our nursing and midwifery workforce, we are intent on further improving on this.

“Obviously in a rural setting we cannot always have bank nurses with specialist skills and therefore on rare occasions must revert to using agency staff, however, we are committed to reducing agency use to a minimum. We are acutely aware of the cost of using agency staff, so across all services we have recently been working in partnership to review our nursing and midwifery establishments, taking account of the needs of different services to ensure we provide sustainable, high quality, safe and effective care.”

NHS Borders made efficiency savings of £7.9million last year and cut 96 jobs.