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Monday, 21 April 2014

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Hospital recruitment drive in Cumbria as costs spiral

Rocketing agency staff costs of £4.4m have led to a recruitment drive for doctors and nurses at north Cumbria’s hospitals.

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Dallan McGleenan: ‘A lot more cost-effective’

The trust that runs Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven is taking on permanent staff rather than relying those provided by agencies.

Its board has approved the move after hearing of a rapid rise in the costs for those workers during the first half of this financial year.

A report showed it has spent £4.4m on agency staff in the year to date – compared with the £2.8m spent in the same period last year.

A large proportion of this came in the trust’s medical division, which “continues to experience high agency staff premium costs in the emergency and general medicine directorates”.

The reports continues: “A new recruitment drive has recently been launched in an effort to recruit to key vacancies, with particular emphasis on posts within Emergency Services across the trust’s two sites.”

Efforts to cut the costs come as the trust deals with significant financial problems that mean it will be taken over by another health trust.

Northumbria Health Trust is expected to take charge of operation by April. A savings target of £16.9m has already been set for this year.

The move to recruit permanent staff has been welcomed by union officials – although one questioned why it took the trust so long to act. Dallan McGleenan, regional representative for the health branch of the union UNISON, said: “From our point of view, using agency staff is a very short-term and counter-productive way of meeting staff.

“As the trust has now realised, it’s a lot more cost-effective and efficient to be advertising and getting people into posts on a permanent basis.”

He said that the continued use of temporary staff was not only bad in terms of continuity for patients, but also detrimental to staff morale.

Reflecting on the dramatic escalation in costs, Mr McGleenan added: “It surprises me that the hospital continued to use agency staff whenever it was being pointed out to them how ineffective it was.

“However, we are thankful for small mercies because they seem to have taken on board now and realise it was a very inefficient way of using tax payers money.”

Overall, the trust’s income was £18.9m in September, including £2.6m received as part of the £26.3m funding package agreed with the Strategic Health Authority.

At the end of September, the trust reported a surplus of £122,000, against a planned surplus of £281,000.

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