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Hospitals must stop being ‘ripped off’ by staff agencies – NHS chief By Alistair Kleebauer @alistairbauer Hospitals should cap their spending on agency staff, including nurses, says the chief executive of NHS England. Simon Stevens said many hospitals are being ‘ripped off’ by agencies, pointing to a ‘huge and unaffordable run-up in agency spending’. Mr Stevens told an audience at the King’s Fund think tank in London: ‘The only way we are going to be able to tackle that is by hospitals acting collectively to set limits and to convert temporary staff expenditures into permanent posts.’ However, RCN council member Mike Travis pointed out when nurses work more than 37.5 hours a week, hospitals often make them work the extra hours through banks administered by NHS Professionals, with rates set by trusts. These pay nurses substantially less than they would earn if they worked the extra hours under their usual Agenda for Change (AfC) pay.

Mr Travis said nurses are losing out on pay when agencies such as NHS Professionals run nursing banks. He added: ‘Mr Stevens is saying cut the agency spend and as a trade union steward, I am saying the employers are using agencies like NHS Professionals to run hospital banks and cut nurse pay. ‘Employers have given NHS Professionals the bank to run and NHS Professionals has the lowest rate that it can get away with.’ An NHS Professionals spokesperson said: ‘We have been giving advice to many of our client trusts on paying appropriate bank rates to reflect changes in the healthcare economy, and some trusts have chosen to act on this advice. ‘We pay nurses in accordance with AfC rates but bank pay rates are always set by the trust, not by NHS Professionals. The rate paid is commensurate with the specific role required, although some trusts choose to pay according to band.’

Responding to Mr Stevens’s speech, RCN general secretary Peter Carter said efforts to reduce NHS spending with agencies are a good thing. He added: ‘Too many staff are being forced to make the financial decision to take agency work because the NHS is not paying them enough. At the same time, hospitals are forced to rely on temporary staff because not enough nurses have been trained. The money spent on temporary staff could pay for thousands of permanent nurses.’

Soaring costs

An RCN report published in February showed an unprecedented rise in NHS spending on agency nursing staff in England. Between 2012/13 and 2013/14 the spending on agency nurses by 168 trusts in England rose from £327 million to £485 million. The report, part of the RCN’s Frontline First campaign, revealed the cost of agency nurses increased by £100 million per quarter in 168 trusts between 2012/13 and 2014/15.

Macmillan cancer nurse specialist Cherith Semple has been named RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year. Dr Semple, pictured right with health minister Simon Hamilton, won the award for initiatives that include a telephone aftercare service for people with head and neck cancers living in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust area. RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said: ‘Our winner is an outstanding example of a nurse who has used her own research to inform changes in practice for the benefit of patients.’


NI Macmillan nurse wins RCN accolade

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Hospitals must stop being 'ripped off' by staff agencies - NHS chief.

Hospitals should cap their spending on agency staff, including nurses, says the chief executive of NHS England...
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