Nurse Overtime Issues Highlighted

Reliance On Agency Staff Raises Concerns About Patient Safety

01.08.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397
UK hospitals run by the NHS are experiencing significant staff shortages on bank holidays, raising concerns about patient safety and the financial implications for the health service, according to a new report.

Sky News has obtained information after submitting a Freedom of Information request to the NHS, with one of the most concerning findings being that some nurses were paid over £1,800 for a single 12-hour shift during this year's May Day bank holiday after being sourced through an agency for the job.

The figures raise many issues, not only surrounding staffing levels and the financial strain such measures are placing on the NHS, but also regarding the safety of patients.

Chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter, pointed out that if agency nurses are being used on occasion, it is likely they will be unfamiliar with a ward and its patients, potentially leading to standards of care falling, neglect and subsequent accidents.

Altogether, 80 out of the 150 English NHS trusts replied to the request, which revealed both the Southend University Hospital Trust and the University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust paid the sum of £1,800 to workers for the shift.

It is not just nurses affected by the short staffing levels, as the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust paid a doctor £2,500 to work on the bank holiday. 

Almost one-third of nurses employed by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust on the May 5th bank holiday were sourced from an agency, while around 50 per cent of doctors working for the West Midlands' Heart of England Trust were temporary stand-in members of staff.

However, in response to the revelations, a spokesperson from the Department of Health stated: "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."

Expert Opinion
We see through our work how staff shortages over busy periods for hospitals such as bank holidays are extremely concerning as a lack of nursing staff can have a devastating impact on the care patients receive.

“The safety of patients and high-quality care should be the top priority for hospitals and other medical facilities, so it is vital any agency nursing staff or temporary stand-in doctors used to cover staff shortages have the correct training and knowledge of the premises and its procedures, to provide the best possible treatment to patients.

“The money paid to stand-in members of staff should also be kept under control by NHS Trusts, as high wage bills can lead to financial difficulties and a drop in standards and services. Where possible this money should be spent on investing in permanent, well-trained staff that will be a long-term asset to the Trust.”
Julie Lewis, Partner