Hospitals ‘struggling to cope’ amid staffing crisis

Pinderfields Hospital
Pinderfields Hospital

Hospital Trusts in Leeds and Wakefield have maintained that patient care is their priority as they turn to expensive agencies to plug swathing holes in staffing.

Figures obtained from 13 of Yorkshire’s hospital trusts show they spent a combined £171m on agency doctors and nurses in 2015/16 - up from £12.8m in 2014/15 and up more than 50 per cent on 2013/14’s £11.8m.

Pontefract Hospital

Pontefract Hospital

Mid Yorkshire, which runs hospitals in Wakefield, Dewsbury and Pontefract, spent £24.8m on agency doctors and nurses last year, up from £15.6m two years earlier.

When added to the figure for Leeds Teaching Hospitals, the agency staffing bill for last year hit £47.5m - up from £43.6m in 2014/15 and 55 per cent higher than in 2013/14, when it was £30.6m.

Labour’s MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield Paula Sherriff, who sits on the Health Select Committee, said our hospitals are struggling to cope as the Government makes it more difficult for trusts to recruit permanent staff.

As revealed last month, Mid Yorkshire also breached the agency staff spending cap more than any other trust in Yorkshire from November to May- 23,540 times.

“The fact that the agency spend as a whole, both in West Yorkshire and across the rest of the country, is at such a high level is indicative that all of our hospitals are struggling to meet current demands and yet the Government is still failing to deal with this growing problem,” Ms Sherriff said.

David Melia, the director of nursing and quality at Mid Yorkshire, acknowledged that there “is still a way to go” to tackle the issue, but said the trust is looking at ways to reduce its “overall reliance” on agency workers.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals was the only Yorkshire trust to report a nominal drop in spending from 2014/15 to 2015/16 - a drop of 4.3 per cent from £23.7m to £22.7m. However, last year’s expenditure was 134 per cent more than the budgeted £9.7m.

Chief nurse and deputy chief executive Suzanne Hinchliffe said it committed £13.5m to increase the number of nurses working on wards in April 2014.

Furthermore, despite a shortage of candidates it had recruited an extra 48 band 5 nurses, midwives and theatre practitioners into permanent posts since April 2016, with another 411 in the pipeline.