Reliance on agency staff partly to blame for North Wales health board’s anticipated £42m deficit
Health bosses in North Wales have partly blamed their reliance on temporary staff as the cause behind an estimated overspend of £42 million.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is facing a hefty deficit as the current financial year draws to a close.
In February alone it spent £2.7m on agency workers as it battles with recruitment problems, particularly in attracting more nurses to the region.
The use of agency nurses has been particularly high at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, where £800,000 was spent on such cover in the same month.
The region’s health board’s poor budgetary performance has been highlighted as one of the reasons why it has been in special measures for almost four years.
At a meeting of board members today, officials said the demand on the health system had led to an increase in temporary staff.
In a report presented at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, Russell Favager, executive director of finance said: “Agency nurses continue to support the sustained pressures arising from unscheduled care and provide cover for the large number of vacancies in secondary care.
“The use of agency nurses is particularly an issue for Wrexham and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, which together account for 85.8 per cent of these costs in February.
“In contrast to medical agency, nurse agency costs are at the highest level for the year to date due to increased costs seen in Wrexham.”
According to a separate report, there are significant gaps between the budgeted number of permanent staff and those actually in post across the organisation.
Overall the difference accounts for around 1,400 full time workers.
It has resulted in approximately £35m being spent on temporary staff.
Sue Green, executive director of workforce and organisational development, said trying to attract agency nurses to stay permanently was one of the options being considered to tackle the issue.
She said: “It is a fundamental tenet of our workforce strategy that we ensure we’ve got the right skills in the right place at the right time.
“We are focussing on recruitment and retention and we’re making sure that the environment and models of care we deliver also contribute to the ability to recruit staff.
“We absolutely share your concerns and we’re working together very closely across all of the executive portfolios to make sure that happens.”
The chief executive of NHS Wales has recently written to the board criticising the lack of progress it has made in addressing problems raised since it was placed under monitoring by the Welsh Government in June 2015.
In his letter, Andrew Goodall said it would not be removed from special measures following the deterioration in its finances.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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