Atlantis Medical News

NHS wage bill increased by staff vacancies

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21 NOV 2018

Most people accept that an increase in vacant posts will often lead to an increase in temporary posts. This is the case in important industries and in the United Kingdom, there are not many industries more important than the NHS. Therefore, findings detailed in the NHS Improvement’s quarterly performance report will make interesting reading for many people.

It was found that the number of NHS Trust posts that were vacant has risen by 10% in the initial quarter of this year. Understandably, this led to temporary staff being drafted in to best manage the workload. This led to overspending with respect to the expected wage bill.

Long-term vacancies hamper the NHS

It was found that for the opening quarter of 2018-2019, there was a total of 108,000 whole time equivalent vacancies. Sadly, it is expected that this trend will increase over the rest of the quarters for this year.

Compared to the final quarter of 2017-18, there was an increase of vacant nursing posts of 17%. The current level of vacant nursing posts stands at 41,722.

In the final quarter of 2017-18, medical vacancies had been classed at 9,982 but in the opening quarter of this year, this had increased to 11,576. There was a difference in how these roles were filled though. The presence of bank staff managed to cover most of the vacancies relating to nursing roles but more than 50% of vacant medical posts were covered by agency staff.

There has been a move to cap agency spending in the NHS

It has been well reported that controlling the level of agency expenditure has been a huge priority for NHS Improvement, and this has been the case since 2015. In that year, a cap was introduced on all agency spending across the country and this was introduced for medical workers and nursing staff.

Of course, even with this cap in mind, this quarter saw £599m spent on agency staff which was an increase on the £592m spent in the final quarter of the previous year.

There is an overall overspend of £42m and this has been attributed to the acute sector. There was an overspend of £63m in this department but just because the overspend can be attributed to one area doesn’t mean other departments can relax. It is expected that the overspend will reach £72m by the end of the year.

Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, released a statement saying: “Trusts tell us they are most worried about the workforce shortages they face, and it’s a real concern that these figures have shown such a big increase in vacancy levels. It’s worrying that this problem is getting worse rather than better.”

At Atlantis Medical, we know that many factors influence the need and demand for agency staff. A lot is made of the need to cover illness and absences, but these figures should reinforce the fact that agency staff are used to cover longer-term vacancies within the NHS.
This has led to many agency staff filling in on a regular basis, ensuring that the NHS can run as smoothly as possible. It is likely that a further increase in overspend will be met with a negative response in the media, but such is the strain that the NHS is under.


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