Hospital bosses have come under fire for the large sums spent on locum staff / Getty Images


NHS hospitals are spending “extraordinary” amounts of public money on temporary staff, health experts have said, after an investigation revealed that rates of almost £150 per hour were paid for locum nurses to work over the May bank holiday.

Hospital bosses have come under fire for the large sums spent on locum staff, after it emerged earlier this year that £2bn had gone to staffing agencies since 2010/11. There are concerns that agency staff who are not familiar with the hospital ward they are working no can put patient care at risk.

New figures uncovered by a Sky News investigation have revealed the extent of spending at a local level, with one locum agency paid £1,800 by University Hospitals Bristol to provide a nurse for the day - almost equivalent to an average nurse’s monthly salary. University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, meanwhile, paid £2,500 for a locum doctor to work one day.

At Heart of England NHS Trust in the West Midlands, half the doctors working on 5 May were locums, while at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals, almost one third of the nurses on wards that day worked for external agencies, according to figures released following Freedom of Information requests.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said that the figures were “truly shocking”.

“Many [of the nurses] will never have been to that ward before and will probably never be there again,” he told Sky News. “Agency nurses do not provide good value for money. The employers who use these extraordinary levels should be held to account for it. This is public money that is not being well spent. This is something that should be looked at with the utmost urgency.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We now have 6,700 more doctors and 6,200 more nurses directly employed by NHS organisations than in 2010.

“The figures are not a full picture of staffing in the NHS, but we encourage all trusts to maintain a tight grip on their staff costs and we will hold poor performers to account.”