bosses at the county’s main hsopitals are having to spend millions of pounds extra on agency workers due to staff shortages.

Oxford Mail:

Finance director Mark Mansfield, above, warned Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust was in a “very volatile position” after it was revealed spending on bank and agency staff has risen 38 per cent.

About half its entire contigency budget has been spent in the first four months of the financial year, mostly on more expensive agency staff, he said.

A union last night warned large numbers of temporary staff can damage patient care because of a lack of continuity.

It comes after the trust’s biggest ever inspection, in February, raised concerns about “lack of sufficient numbers” at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Director of finance and procurement Mr Mansfield said: “We have not budgeted for that high level of agency staff.

“Our level of agency spending has been an issue for a long time. We are in a very volatile position with high levels of activity and high levels of vacancies.”
He said £6.4m – “about half” the contingency budget – was spent in the first four months of the financial year.
He said: “We need to reduce our expenditure to agency and be able to manage those budgets more carefully subject to and over remedial actions.
“We can only go to agency when it is absolutely necessary.”
He told board members last week  it spent £13m on bank and agency from April to July, up 38 per cent on the same period in 2013.
That included £4m on agency nurses and midwives, £1.7m on technicians, scientists and therapists, £200,000 on doctors and £3.5m on other staff.
It means 6.2 per cent of the total pay bill for the trust – which has 9,556 full-time staff – went on agency staff. This was 5.6 per cent from January to April.
Costs are higher for temporary staff.
For example, Ambition 24 Hours pays about £30 an hour to nurses compared to about £13 for those in the NHS.
Chief nurse Catherine Stoddart said the trust is meeting safe staffing targets in nursing and midwifrey.
She said: “There’s an operation to increase our nurses workforce as part of our ongoing recruitment plan. It’s a national issue of recruitment.”
Non-executive director Prof Sir John Bell said: “It’s very clear that we’re going to continue to run into these very choppy waters as demand grows.
“The only way to change our position is to try and change the profile of the workforce.
“The executive team are running as hard as they can to keep their heads above water. If we stay on the current target it’s going to get choppier and choppier.”
Bank staff are hired directly by the trust for short periods, while agency staff are hired via a care company.
In May the Care Quality Commission said the JR “requires improvement” after a February inspection raised concerns about staff shortages, lack of beds, poor clinic planning, high bed occupancy and long waiting times.
Royal College of Nursing union spokeswoman Helen Wigginton said: “It’s a terrible way to recruit your staff. It’s a short-term fix.
“Agency staff shouldn’t be the default and standard position.
“It would be much, much better to recruit properly and have a full complement of staff.”
She added: “It’s not just the financial side, it’s really hard to build cohesive teams and that’s really difficult for management.
“It’s difficult for the nurses to parachute into a hospital and suddenly be able to pick it up and know how everything works.
“We aren’t producing enough nurses. There aren’t the number of people that’s needed to fill in the gaps. Nurses don’t grow on trees.”
The trust refused to comment further.

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