Figures relating to health trusts in Yorkshire suggest that the county has spent over £70 million on agency midwives in just 12 months.
This number has been dubbed extremely wasteful, particularly as it would be enough to employ over 500 staff.
These latest findings were obtained by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) through Freedom of Information requests, and indicate that spending increased extremely rapidly over the last year.
Indeed, in just two years, the amount of agency spending by NHS trusts in Yorkshire had increased by over 75%.
The RCM is of the belief that staff shortages should be eradicated by the employment of more midwives.
This could possibly be achieved by offering existing staff incentives to work during national holidays, and also overtime periods.
The report states that at present the cost of overtime is being controlled but agency spend, which is much more expensive, is less mediated. This needs to be corrected, as current practice in the NHS is evidently extremely wasteful.
Although the problem is particularly pronounced in Yorkshire, it has also been proven that roughly one-third of the trusts in the United Kingdom have utilised agency agency staff at some point over the last three years.
Trusts had an average spend of £49.01 per hour on agency staff in 2014, according to FOI requests. This effectively means that agency staff cost the NHS more than double the amount that would be spent on regular staff.
And much of this money is squandered on agency fees and other gratuitous costs.
The report does conclude that the use of agency staff in the NHS had reached an inappropriate level, and called on the Department of Health to address the situation in the immediate future.
According to the information required by the report, the majority of midwives who worked agency shifts do so in addition to permanent posts with the aim of topping up income.
Commenting on the issue, Andrew Gwynne, the shadow public health minister stated that “spending on expensive agency staff is spiralling out of control. Across England, too many maternity units are operating without enough staff, forcing some to turn women away because they are unable to cope.”
The Department of Health has not responded to the findings as of yet, but a spokesperson from the organisation did comment back in November.
It was suggested at that time that the shift rate for NHS staff was intended to address the situation.
“For too long staffing agencies were able to charge hospitals extortionate hourly rates but the tough new controls we introduced last year are helping hospitals clamp down on agency staff, improving continuity of care for patients and will reduce the overall agency staff pay bill by £1 billion over the next three years. We want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby and there are already more than 5,500 obstetricians and gynaecologists in the NHS, including over 2,000 consultants, an increase of 20% since 2010.”
But there will be scepticism following these latest figures that the measures put in place by the Department of Health are effective.