Audit shows that NHS trusts could save £85m on temp staff

NHS trusts in England could save up to £85m a year by improving the way they recruit and use temporary nurses, according to a National Audit Office report.

It found trusts had cut costs on expensive agency nurses but still relied on other temporary staff.

The report said many trusts lacked the data needed to work out cost-effective staffing levels. It found spending on temporary staff ranged from less than 5% to 29% of total nursing staff budgets.

NHS Employers welcomed the report and said helping trusts to better manage their temporary staffing was one of its “key priorities”.

Overall, the report found that acute and foundation trusts spent £790m on temporary nursing staff in 2004-05. Of this, 3% was spent on agency staff, down from a high of 7%.

However, the report found that trusts have paid less attention to addressing the wider issues of controlling and managing demand for all types of temporary nursing staff.

Temporary staff help many trusts respond to fluctuations in demand for services, the report said. But it warned that failure to manage their use effectively could be costly.

Sir John Bourn, National Audit Office auditor general, said: “It is very important that trusts further develop their understanding of their demand for all nursing staff as the ability to be able to manage the workforce effectively will play a major part in determining whether trusts remain in financial balance under payment by results.”

Sian Thomas, deputy director at NHS Employers, said NHS trusts had made huge strides in reducing spending on temporary nursing staff over the past few years.

“However, we know more can still be done and that some trusts are better than others. NHS Employers has already identified the management of temporary staffing as a priority work area. We fully endorse the recommendations in the report and look forward to working with trusts and helping them to implement them,” she said.


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