Row over cost of agency staff

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A UNION has accused hospital bosses on Wearside of operating a “false economy” after it was revealed that millions of pounds was spent on agency staff.

City Hospitals Sunderland, which runs Sunderland Royal Hospital and Eye Infirmary, spent £7.3million during the last two-and-a-half years on employing non-permanent workers in a range of medical and clerical roles.

More than £3million was spent in 2009-10 and public sector union, Unison, says this money could be better spent on improving patient care.

Helen Coomer, regional organiser for Unison, said: “£7.3 million is an incredibly large amount of money to have been spent on agency staff in such a short period of time.

“At a time when there is so much uncertainty in the labour market, especially in the North East, Unison would much prefer that this money was spent on offering local people secure and permanent positions.

“The use of agency staff over a long period of time is a real false economy. The extra charges and fees the agencies charge could be put towards patient care particularly at the moment when the NHS is seeing its budgets being cut so severely by central government.”

The total spend breaks down into just over £6million on medical staff, £500,000 on administrative positions and £131,116 on nursing.

The remaining £583,000 went on scientific staff, allied health professionals and a category the trust list as “other”.

In 2010-11 a total of £2.4million was spent

A spokesman for City Hospitals Sunderland said: “There is always a balancing act between permanent and agency staff costs and it is a key ongoing objective of the trust to provide a flexible workforce with the right range of skills to maintain the highest quality of care to the people of Sunderland.

“We aim to make the most efficient use of our temporary staff and avoid high levels of agency expenditure – this spend was reduced significantly across all staff groups between 2009-10 and 2010-11.”

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