The scandal of rapidly increasing agency costs in the NHS needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 2 June).
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, was commenting as the think tank, the Nuffield Trust warned today that staff burn-out could derail the NHS ‘efficiency’ drive and the move to a seven-day service.
“It is quite right that the Nuffield Trust has highlighted the scandal of accelerating expenditure on agency staff which has jumped by 31 percent in just one year”, said Barrie Brown, head of health at Unite.
“Unite and the other health unions raised this very issue with Jeremy Hunt on 20 January this year during the pay negotiations. The health secretary has been slow to get to grips with the spiralling out of control agency budget.
“Unite wants the agency bill slashed and permanent nursing staff and other health professionals employed with proper training and development in place, coupled with robust recruitment and retention policies.
“We welcome the pledge at the weekend by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens that he will clamp down on the staffing agencies that he said were ripping off the NHS – this promise is not before time.
“Media reports that some of the bosses of these staffing agencies are living a five-star high life on the profits levered out of the financially challenged NHS will sicken those on waiting lists for hospital treatment.
“The money going to these agencies could be quickly redirected towards helping patients get the care they deserve and that permanent staff are fairly rewarded for their work for all their patients.”