NHS trusts in the South West have spent a record £59.6 million on employing agency nursing staff in the first six months of 2015. This nears the total spend of 2014.
Jeannett Martin, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing South West region, said:
"The RCN has been highlighting the increasing agency spend for several years yet we continue to see costs rise year after year. NHS trusts are trying to plug the vacancy gap, to ensure that patients get the care they need, by relying on agencies to supply temporary staff - but this is not a sustainable approach. Any organisation relying so heavily on temporary staff is risking compromising quality and in the NHS that means risking patient safety."
"There is a recruitment crisis in nursing. Not enough nurses are being trained and many are choosing to leave the NHS - to retire early; to work for agencies which offer more flexible hours or to move abroad where nurses are better rewarded."
"At the RCN we have supported nursing staff whose employers have imposed rigid shift patterns that they are unable to manage with their caring or child commitments. Eventually they feel that they have no option but to leave. We also talk to nursing staff who will not be able to afford to stay working in the NHS if unsocial hours payments are removed."
"We know that for every student nursing place filled in universities in this region there are up to 20 prospective candidates turned away. We hear of nurses coming here from Europe, only to move on to Australia, where they will be better rewarded, after a few months and we know that nurses coming here from outside of Europe will be forced to return to their home countries after six years because they will not meet the government’s requirement to stay."
"The Government must recognise that it is setting the NHS up to fail as it makes demands of more for less while reducing pay, terms and conditions of NHS staff."
"NHS employers must do more to retain their current workforce; to make them feel valued enough to stay in the NHS and to enable flexible working patterns."
"Nationally there needs to be effective workforce planning and an increase in student nursing places that will enable the NHS to meet the care needs of the population. We urgently need the Government to recognise nursing as a shortage occupation so that we do not have to send back our nurses who came from abroad to work here.”