There is no denying that our frontline hospital staff are worth their weight in gold.

We are lucky that in Oxfordshire we have some of the best care in the world.

However, one cannot help being troubled by the amount Oxford University Hospitals Trust are having to fork out on agency staff. Rising to £13m since April – a 38 per cent increase on last year – there can be no denying the situation is seemingly spiralling out of control.

Yes, NHS staff shortages are a national issue, but with agency staff being paid a 40 per cent premium, Oxfordshire needs to tackle this head-on. The spend is justified in part by ensuring that our hospitals have a safe number of doctors, nurses and other workers, to care for us when we need it most. But, despite a huge recruitment drive for full-time staff, how do we find ourselves in this mess?

More must be done to make Oxfordshire an easy and attractive place to work. That means making homes affordable and school places easier to find. NHS Trusts can only do so much, all authorities must pull together – transport, councils and developers – to play a role in sorting this.

At the same time, questions must be asked as to why OUHT had not budgeted for such a high spend on agency staff.

We’ve known for a while that staffing levels were reaching difficult levels. We cannot afford to keep this level of spending up.

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