Hospital agency staff cost £8m

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HOSPITAL bosses spent more than £8 million on expensive agency staff over the last year.

Managers at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest Hospital on The Ridge and Eastbourne District General Hospital, are already grappling with a £6 million debt.

The cash went towards employing doctors, staff to work in laboratories, nurses, therapists and other posts.

The organisation has yet to hear from the Strategic Health Authority on whether a bid to get £6 million to help clear its debts has been successful and is expected to hear later this month.

More than £1 million alone out of the total agency costs figure went towards paying nursing staff from agencies because the trust is struggling to fill nursing posts.

The trust, which also runs Eastbourne DGH, said it currently had 98 nursing vacancies.

There is a national shortage of nurses in specialist areas like orthopaedics and elderly care.

A trust spokesman said it is taking on 30 newly qualified nurses next month.

He said: “The difficulty in recruiting nurses is being experienced across the whole country.

“Over the last two years we have invested in nursing staffing levels and we have established a recruitment plan to increase the number of staff on all wards which will help reduce agency nurse costs.

“The plan includes establishing an ongoing recruitment process where five applicants per week are shortlisted and interviewed, setting up a special campaign to recruit nurses from Scotland and other countries such as Ireland and Portugal.”

The spokesman added that the trust also intends to target priority areas such as orthopaedics, elderly care and theatres, which need more staff.