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High number of nursing vacancies hits West Suffolk Hospital's agency and bank wage bill

Nursing vacancies have helped put West Suffolk Hospital £1.8 million into the red, as its agency and bank staff pay bill hit £474,000 in April.

West Suffolk Hospital Bury St Edmunds Picture Mark Westley (2291873)
West Suffolk Hospital Bury St Edmunds Picture Mark Westley (2291873)

More than 90 senior registered nurse posts are vacant, with West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust struggling to fill them despite overseas recruitment campaigns and a new apprenticeship scheme starting in September.

The trust hopes three Filipino nurses due to start work in July will be followed by a further 45 before Christmas. Another 10 nursing assistants who are registered nurses in their own country are being supported with UK registration, while the new nursing apprenticeship scheme saw 84 applications for 13 posts.

Meanwhile, the Trust is overspending on bank and agency staff to help fill the gaps and relieve pressure on staff. This has helped to contribute to a £1.8 million deficit one month into the financial year - £93,000 worse than planned.

A report to Friday's board of directors said the overspend 'predominantly relates to expenditure on agency staff over and above the budge'.

The total pay spend in April was £12,984,000, against a budgeted £12,684,000 - £300,000 more. Temporary staff costs made up more than 12 per cent of the trust's total pay bill in April, while nursing agency and bank staff alone cost £474,000.

Chief executive Stephen Dunn, in his report to Friday's meeting, said nurse recruitment was a national problem the trust was trying to tackle through welcome and retention initiatives, return to nursing and recommend a friend schemes.

"Nursing recruitment pressures are being felt at the trust," he said.

Craig Black, executive director of resources, said patient demand for services had been up by seven per cent in April compared to last year meaning more staff were needed temporarily.

"We know that we manage our money well," he said. We met our financial control total for the year 2017/18, which in turn meant we received some additional money which helped to reduce our overall deficit for the year - our year-end position was a deficit of £0.3m, against a planned deficit of £5.9m.

"As we enter the new financial year we will be working hard to try and do more with less."

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