The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has introduced strict new rules designed to clamp down on what he calls staffing agencies “ripping off the NHS”.
The minister said he would put a stop to agency doctors receiving up to £3,500 for a single cover shift, in a bid to bring down the £3.3 billion spent by the NHS on agency staff bills last year.
But Mr Hunt has faced a backlash this morning from doctors and nurses who say that government cuts are responsible for creating a heightened demand for agency workers.
Peter Carter, the chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, admitted that the NHS “can't continue spending so much money on short-term staffing solutions” and that it was right to look for better value for money.
The increasing strain on NHS resources
But he also said: "The health service needs to focus on the root cause of this problem, not just the symptoms. A lack of investment in nurse training and cuts to nurse numbers mean that trusts now have no choice but to pay over the odds for agency staff and recruiting overseas.”
Mark Porter, British Medical Association (BMA) council chairman, said the reliance on agency staff was “a sign of stress on the system and the result of poor workforce planning by government”.
He said: “Increasingly, locums are employed as hospitals can't attract staff to take up full-time posts, so we need to address the root causes of the recruitment and retention problem in many parts of the NHS, especially emergency medicine.”
On social media, health service workers accused Mr Hunt of failing to address the “real problem”.
Lesson on supply & demand for Jeremy Hunt: If you cut nurse training numbers from 20,829 to 17,219, expect a rise in demand for agency staff— Clive Peedell (@cpeedell) June 2, 2015
And Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, said: “Jeremy Hunt is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes by acting as if the £3 billion agency bill is a problem he has suddenly discovered. The truth is that it is a problem created by Tory mismanagement of the NHS.
“The decision to cut 6,000 nursing posts in the early years of the last parliament, alongside big reductions in nurse training places, has left the NHS in the grip of private staffing agencies. The Tory government is responsible for this monumental waste of NHS resources.”Reuse content