University Hospital of North Staffordshire banks on reducing £8m bill
A HOSPITAL is trying to recruit more part-time nurses in a bid to cut the huge sums being spent on agency staff.
The cost of reopening just four wards run by short-term agency nurses and locum doctors has already been calculated at a staggering £50,000 a day.
The 80 beds are needed by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire to increase patient flow and slash A&E unit delays.
But agencies make charges above the nurses' salaries and the hospital wants to reduce the reliance on them by boosting its own workforce.
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Now it has launched a recruitment drive for so-called bank nurses – directly employed staff, who work anything from a few hours to several days a week.
An open day is being staged next Friday to generate interest and interview nurses so they can join the scheme immediately.
The bank currently stands at 82 qualified nurses and 300 assistants but it has been left depleted over the past few months by numbers deciding to go full-time.
No target has been issued but officials are keen to see the bank grow by several hundred.
Bank nurses are often staff who have interrupted their careers to have families but now want to get back into the profession part-time.
Patients looked after by them also have more chance of seeing the same face as agency staff are drawn from a wide number of companies and continuity of care is lost.
The trust wants staff to work in its new trauma and emergency centres as well as in medical and surgical wards, child health, critical care and operating theatres.
Candidates will need at least six months post-registration experience in an acute hospital setting and the deadline for applications is October 31. The open day will be on Ward 27 of the Royal Infirmary site between 9am and 5pm. Nurse bank manager Barbara Walsh said: "Joining the bank is a great way for nurses to work the number of days or hours that suit them. Our new hospital is a fantastic facility and I think nurses will really want to join us.
"Our main focus has always and will always be to put patient safety first and by having a dynamic and flexible nurse bank we will ensure we continue to provide the highest standard of care."
Figures issued by the hospital's finance department show that between April 1 and the end of August it spent nearly £8 million on agency staff – £5.4million more than it had planned in its budget.
In the same period it spent nearly £119 million on permanent staff.
Union leaders said management could have avoided the shortages by not reducing nurse levels last year for a programme to cut beds.
Rob Irving, secretary of the Unison branch, added: "At the time we said we did not believe the policy would work – but now, having cut numbers, they are having to recruit both permanent and bank nurses again."