Wednesday, January 14, 2009

NHS squanders millions on agency staff - with some nurses earning up to $200 an HOUR

Millions of pounds of health service funds are being wasted employing agency nurses on up to 128 pounds an hour. This is almost ten times the amount paid to an experienced staff nurse - and equates to a salary of 250,000. Overall, the health service spent almost 800million on agency doctors, nurses and consultants in 2006-07, according to the figures uncovered in a Freedom of Information request. That could fund around ten hospitals or employ 30,000 full- time experienced nurses. Agency staff are plugging the holes left by the 11,000 nurses who left to work overseas last year, seeking better pay and conditions.

The yawning gap between rates for NHS workers and agency locums exists at every level including managers and even prison GPs, who have been paid up to 158 an hour. The figures also show that much of the money goes into the pockets of agency bosses rather than to the workers, who can earn less than two-thirds of what the NHS pays out.

The Department of Health insists that the amount spent on agency staff is falling, year on year. But critics say it must do more to prevent agencies 'creaming off' millions meant to improve the standards of care. Dr Peter Carter, the chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: 'We are concerned and we want the Government to tackle this as a matter of urgency. 'If the NHS made more effort attracting and retaining permanent staff, it would obviate the need for many agency nurses. 'It's understandable that members of the public seeing these huge rates wonder whether nurses really are underpaid, but the reality is that individuals working for agencies get much less than the NHS is charged. There are private companies that are making a killing out of the NHS.'

He said many nurses were emigrating, partly because the NHS could not help with high housing costs in many areas. He said: 'There has been a huge surge in UK nurses wanting to work abroad and they have employment opportunities in the U.S., Australia, South Africa and other countries. Almost 11,000 went last year.'

Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures, said: 'For years the Government have been telling us how many extra staff they have hired for the NHS. So surely we should have reached a situation by now where we no longer need to keep paying out millions each year to agencies and their staff? 'It is a dreadful waste of taxpayers' money at a time when we can least afford it.'

All NHS trusts were asked to provide details of the highest amount they paid to an agency worker between May and October 2008 and there was a response rate of more than 70 per cent. An agency nurse employed at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Swindon was paid 128 an hour. An experienced nurse on Band 5 pay in the NHS gets 13 an hour or 26,000 a year - almost ten times less. Whipps Cross University Hospitals NHS Trust said it paid 188 an hour for an anaesthetics medical consultant, equivalent to a salary of 366,000.

The resulting data did not show whether the workers came from privately-run agencies or from NHS Professionals, a non-profit agency set up by the Government to provide flexible staff. Some agencies-were taking large cuts. Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust paid 116 per hour for a nurse but the agency took 50 (43 per cent).

Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: 'Agencies have creamed off millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, whilst patients continue to receive below-par care.' A Department of Health spokesman said: 'Temporary staff have, and continue to have, a key role in helping the NHS to respond to fluctuations in demand for services and in staff availability. 'The total pay bill spent on agency staff has reduced from 5.5 per cent in 2003-04, to 4.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 3.5 per cent in 2005-06, 2.7 per cent in 2006-07 and 3.2 per cent in 2007-08.'


Australia: More "caring" socialist medicine

Mother charged $500 to park at hospital but media exposure brings a backdown

THE Children's Hospital, Westmead has told a mother about to donate a kidney to her daughter she will have to pay $500 in parking fees. The case of South Granville mother Kristy Hite has exposed the confusion and heartlessness of the hospital's new parking policy. The Daily Telegraph this week revealed the State Government's plan to privatise hospital car parks and Westmead's proposal to increase fees at its car park.

Ms Hite's daughter Lily, 4, has been sick since she was born and the struggling family was entitled to free parking. Last month a hospital social worker said the free parking would be revoked and Ms Hite would have to pay for parking for at least two months until the hospital could consider her case. If Ms Hite parks at the hospital - which is now charging $16 a day, up from $12 - during visits before and after her daughter's operation she would pay about $512.

When The Daily Telegraph alerted the hospital to Ms Hite's plight yesterday, a spokeswoman said there had been a miscommunication and the family would continue to be allowed to park free. "She (the social worker) said she was looking into what we could do further down the track," Ms Hite said yesterday. "She said I would have to pay for a couple of months until they worked something out, it was a very vague conversation we had. "It is the worst time for them to cancel that card, we're going to live here for at least a month."

Ms Hite has moved from Nowra to South Granville and borrowed money to stay afloat. Before the hospital returned her parking privileges, she said she would have to park blocks from the hospital and walk to see her daughter despite undergoing serious surgery to have her kidney removed. "That cost isn't even an option . . . I am in debt up to my eyeballs," she said. "I am amazed you have to pay at all and the price is ridiculous."

Health Minister John Della Bosca said yesterday he had called the hospital to ensure families were given proper consideration. A spokeswoman for the hospital said Ms Hite would be provided with free parking.


No comments: