Massive hike in NHS Wales spending on agency staff, says watchdog

22 Jan 19

NHS Wales spending on agency staff has risen 171% in the seven years to 2017-18, according to the auditor general.

Expenditure on agency staff in the Welsh health service was £135.7m in 2017-18 and peaked at £164.4m in 2016-17, the watchdog highlighted.

Eighty two per cent of spending on agency staff in the first half of 2018-19 was to provide cover for vacant positions, the Wales Auditor General said in a report released today.

“Staff working on a temporary basis generally cost more for a shift than a person of the same grade who has a substantive contract,” the report warned.

“Staff supplied by agencies tend to be the most costly source of temporary staff.”

NHS Wales needed more “consistent and comparable data to understand the root causes of agency spend”, the WAO suggested.

Although, the watchdog noted the Welsh health service was looking to reduce the demand for agency staff and the price it pays for them, it has only just begun analysing the reasons why they were used in each case.

In the first six months of 2018-19 £66.8m was spend on agency staff to cover vacancies – the 82% - 8% was for ‘additional activity’ and 6% was to cover sickness absence, the report said.

It also included a ‘data-tool’ developed by the auditor to enable people to carry out their own analysis of agency expenditure.

Auditor general Adrian Crompton said: “I hope [this report] will be used by a wide range of people and professionals in Wales, along with the data tool we have produced, to help NHS Wales continue to bring down and control these costs at a time of significant financial pressure.”

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