NHS hospitals are paying agency workers record sums amid a growing crisis in Accident and Emergency departments. As staff shortages increase, hospitals are increasingly relying on agency workers to fill the gaps, with agencies able to charge huge premiums for their doctors and nurses.
The Telegraph reports that temporary medics were able to charge up to £3,200 per shift as hospital casualty units struggled to cope with the number of admissions this winter. Some agency nurses were paid up to £1,900 a day as hospitals filled doctors’ shifts with temporary workers.
Health officials now fear that a similar debacle could occur over Easter as many NHS services close for the four-day holiday weekend, leaving casualty units as the only resort for people who fall ill.
Hospitals have already been asked to discharge as many healthy people as possible to free up space, while doctors have been asked to work extra shifts on Holy Saturday as demand surges.
However, as staff shortages reach “desperate” levels, some agencies have been able to charge fees of up to £100 an hour for their doctors and nurses. Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act showed huge payments for individual shifts.
One NHS trust, United Lincolnshire, paid £3,257 for one doctor working a 12-hour shift and remain on call for another 12 hours between Christmas and New Year. Royal Berkshire NHS Trust also paid £1,875 for a nurse to work a shift of 12 hours.
The Royal Cornwall trust paid £2,142 for a doctor to work 10 hours, while Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust paid £2,099 to one medic for a nine-hour shift.
Dr Cliff Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Market forces really are quite extreme currently, with the lack of permanent people to employ.
“It means hospitals are desperate to try to find people to fill these slots and are having to pay super premium rates for that to happen.”