Cash-strapped Health boards are wasting millions of pounds each year on agency fees – money that could be going straight to frontline services.
That’s the message from the Welsh Conservatives today, after a Freedom of Information Request by Andrew RT Davies AM revealed figures for the last four years.
The figures show a combined spend of over £190m in the last four years by Welsh health boards on agency staff (including nurses and doctors), and the Welsh Conservatives have questioned whether that spend represents value for money.
“I am very concerned that the increasing use of agency staff may not represent value for money for the public purse; that it could be contributing to patient safety risks; and may be adding to the financial challenges already faced by Welsh health boards.
"Whilst the use of agency staff to provide cover for unplanned absences and annual leave can be very useful to NHS employers, I am concerned that this expenditure suggests that they are being used much more than ought to be the case and that taxpayers may be footing the bill for poor management by local health boards and poor workforce planning by the Welsh Labour Government.
"Some posts are difficult to recruit to as a result of the failure of successive Welsh Labour Administrations for failing to train sufficient doctors and nurses to meet increasing patient demand, and many health boards hold back on advertising for vacant posts in a misguided attempt to balance the books in the face of record-breaking budget cuts, but this is false economy when agency staff then have to be called in to cover shifts.
"We need some leadership from the Welsh Labour Government to turn this situation around."
Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, also urged the Welsh Government to end the uncertainty over service reorganisations in Wales; an on-going saga which has heaped extra pressure on workforce planning by health boards.
“These alarming figures also highlight the impact of uncertainty around proposed reorganisations, which is making it extremely difficult for the some health boards to plan their workforce effectively.
“Despite repeated warnings, Labour has failed to address the staffing crisis at the heart of the Welsh NHS and the on-going confusion surrounding their controversial plans has further exacerbated the problem.
Frontline staff in the Welsh NHS work tirelessly to deliver the very best standards of care for Welsh patients, but sadly Labour’s record-breaking NHS budget cuts continue to pile on the pressure.
Notes to editors:
Please note that these figures have been obtained following Freedom of Information Requests to each of Wales’ seven local health boards. Copies are available on request.
The figures for each financial year are combined medical and nursing spends on agency staff (including doctors and nurses).