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Agency nurses 'can cost Northern Trust £100K a year'

From BBC - October 5, 2017

Hiring an agency nurse when no NHS staff nurses are available can cost up to 100,000 a year, the head of a Northern Ireland health trust has said.

That is almost four times the annual salary of a permanent employee who does the same job and, in some cases, agency nurses cost more than senior doctors.

But not all the money goes to nurses, a significant part is paid to agencies.

The 100,000 figure was revealed by Dr Tony Stevens, chief executive of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

'Crazy situation'

He confirmed the price during a meeting with SDLP politicians, Patsy McGlone and John Dallat.

Dr Stevens told them a widespread staffing shortage was forcing the trust to use high-cost nursing agencies.

Mr McGlone told the Press Association: "This unregulated pay spiral is going out of control and leading to this crazy situation."

The SDLP MLA said the lack of staff nurses had effectively resulted in "privatisation through the back door".

'Political failure'

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) said the cost of deploying nurses via agencies has reached "unprecedented" levels, costing Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Services (HSC) 23.5m in 2016/17.

The nurses' union blamed staff shortages on "inadequate" workforce planning and a "failure" of political leadership.

However, the RCN added that it was not aware of any individual nurse who was being paid 100,000 a year.

Its deputy director in Northern Ireland, Garrett Martin, said: "While large figures are being reported in relation to agency nurses' pay, a significant proportion of this goes to the agency, not the nurse".

In a statement, the health trust said the shortage of nurses was both a national and international problem.

It said that like other NHS bodies it was actively trying to recruit permanent staff, but warned the pay situation was unsustainable.

'Even higher'

'Near misses'

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