The NHS bill for agency staff has risen by 60% in two years to almost £1.3bn, according to figures obtained by the Conservatives.
The BBC reported ‘signs that permanent posts are being frozen’ in readiness for a funding squeeze, although NHS funding has been guaranteed until 2011.
Five years ago thousands of posts were frozen and vacancies filled by agency staff when NHS trusts were in financial difficulties, and these figures indicate that trusts are likely to adopt a similar strategy, suggests the BBC report.
The information, released by the Tories after a Freedom of Information request, reveals hourly rates for managers of up to £400 an hour, and £146 for a nurse, in details published by the Press Association.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley described it as a hugely wasteful way to run the NHS, but Director of NHS Employers Sian Thomas told the BBC: “Appointing permanent staff can be more expensive if you are looking to change services as we will have to do.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health, reported in the Telegraph, said: “It is the responsibility of NHS trusts to plan and manage their demand for temporary nursing staff in the context of local business and workforce plannning.”