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Midwife agency spending rises 40% in past year

Annual agency spend on maternity staff in NHS rises to £24.9m

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 17 October 2016

The NHS paid around £25m in 2015 for agency midwives – a 39.8% rise on the previous year and more than double the figure in 2013, according to information obtained by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

The college published a report Agency, Bank and Overtime spending in maternity units in England in 2015 at the weekend containing responses from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to all NHS trusts in England with maternity services. The FOI achieved a 91.5% response rate.

Responses showed that agency spending on maternity staff in the NHS in 2015 was £24.9m compared with £17.8m in 2014, £11.7m in 2013 and £10.1m in 2012.

NHS organisations spent £4.5m on overtime for midwives in England in 2015 while they spent £43.2m on bank midwives in England.

Overall, NHS organisations spent £72.7m on agency, overtime and bank midwives.

The RCM said that £72.7m was enough money to pay for 2,063 full time, experienced midwives (paid at the top of band 6 at £35,255 a year) or 3,318 full time, newly qualified midwives (starting salary is £21,909 per year).

The report was published ahead of the college’s annual conference taking place on Wednesday and Thursday of this week in Harrogate.

Jon Skewes director for policy, employment relations and communications at the RCM, said: “The findings of this report are deeply concerning and clearly reveal that many trusts within England are far too reliant on agency and bank midwives.

“This is an incredibly expensive and wasteful way to staff maternity units and it simply cannot continue. For over a decade now the RCM has warned that an over reliance on temporary staff will inevitably cost more in the long run.”

The college estimated that England currently had a shortage of 3,500 midwives and said that if the money that went on agency staff last year had been used to pay for full-time NHS staff, this could have solved the midwife shortage.

Mr Skewes said that the FOI had also revealed that there were 23 trusts that spent more than £1m on agency staff in 2015 and 12 of the highest spenders were in London.

“The best solution to this problem is to eliminate the shortage of midwives by training and employing more midwives, and retaining existing midwives by treating them fairly and valuing them,” he added. “This can only be achieved by fair pay policies and granting flexible working requests.

“The RCM is also asking for the government to rethink its plans to abolish the bursary for midwifery students as we fear it will deter students wanting to train to be midwives and this will in turn further compound the shortage of midwives in England and increase the reliance on short-term staff.”

A spokesman from NHS Improvement said trusts were making progress on saving money on agency spend overall and added: “We are committed to helping the NHS cut the cost of agency midwives and all agency staff, so that patients get the right care, from the right staff, at the right time.”

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