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NHS Nursing Shortage: More than £1m spent on private agency nurses by Idowu Olabode : December 28, 2016, 08:09:32 PM
A SHORTAGE of theatre nurses at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness is adding to a soaring bill for expensive private agency nurses.

In the six months up to November, NHS Highland spent just under £376,000 on agency nurses to enable operations and procedures to be carried out at the region’s main hospital.



A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said there were currently eight full-time equivalent nursing posts vacant in the hospital theatres.

"Recruiting to these posts is proving difficult and something that is being reflected nationally – not just in Highland," she said.

But nursing representatives have voiced their concerns about the increasing reliance by health boards, including NHS Highland, on agencies to fill the gaps, saying it does not help morale among nurses.

Raigmore Hospital’s theatres include a temporary unit provided by a private company called Vanguard.

Although it is helping to reduce waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery, it also has to rely on agency nurses at times.

"The team of staff who work in the unit are NHS Highland employees and form part of the overall theatre team which covers all our operating theatres," the NHS Highland spokeswoman said.

"At the moment, we have a number of vacancies within our theatre team and use agency nurses as required until these vacancies can be filled in order to maintain a high-quality service to the patients of NHS Highland."

The unit, which arrived in April 2015, will remain until next December. Each day, it carries out four elective joint procedures such as hip replacements.

"It allows us to keep patients in the Highlands and reduces the number of patients having to go elsewhere for orthopaedic surgery," the NHS Highland spokeswoman said. "The Scottish Government is assisting us with funding for this facility."

Vanguard supplies one member of staff to manage the unit.

In the last financial year, NHS Highland spent £1,017,756 on private agency nurses, an increase of 211 per cent on the £326,896 spent in 2011-12.

Across Scotland, the picture was also grim with spending on agency staff rocketing from £3,939,107 in 2011-12 to £23,483,000 in 2015-16, prompting concerns from the Royal College of Nursing.

Bob McGlashan, senior RCN officer for Scotland, said as health boards continued to struggle to fill permanent nursing posts, they were having to resort to expensive agency nurses to fill the gaps.

"While some agency nursing staff will always be needed to cover unexpected events like sickness absence to ensure safe patient care, health boards cannot continue to ratchet up spending on agency staff," he said.

"That is not sustainable in the long term and does nothing for the morale of nurses, as a result of the lack of continuity of the nursing team, when all they want to do is provide the best possible care for their patients."

Source : Highland News

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