Temporary nursing staff is costing the NHS in Scotland £25m a year,
according to a recent report.
Public-sector watchdog the Accounts Commission’s report, Temporary Measures:
managing bank and agency nursing staff, also found an upsurge in the use of
temporary nursing staff. It states that more than 10,000 nurses are thought to
be registered with nurse banks and an average of almost 540 agency nurses are
used each day."
The report continues, "The use of temporary nurses should be kept to a
minimum for both quality and cost reasons. Temporary nurses would only be
appointed to fill unforeseen staffing gaps that cannot be filled from within
existing resources, and that trusts could avoid using temporary staff by better
planning and management of their own nursing staff."
The use of agency nurses has soared over the past four years, rising from
195.3 whole time equivalent posts a day in 1994 to 537.5 a day by 1998. Alex
McMahon, the RCN’s Scottish adviser on nursing policy, said, "Why are
trusts consistently employing agency staff? If there is a continual need for
these posts then they should be filled with full-time permanent staff."
Ann Rushforth, owner of Scotnursing, one of the largest nursing agencies in
Scotland, believes using agency nurses is not a bad thing. "It is a bad
thing if it is being used instead of filling full-time nursing posts but if it
is to cover temporary needs in delivering patient care then there is not a
problem with it.
"What we do need is better planning of nursing among trusts to ensure
they are not so reliant on agency nurses in the future."
Scottish health minister Susan Deacon welcomed the report
By Colin Wright.