Private Agency Spending In Scottish NHS Up 522% Since 2011

Labour has called for an amendment to the new ‘safe staffing’ Bill to cap agency spending, after research revealed that it had increased by 522% since 2011.

The ‘safe staffing’ Bill - which Labour supports - would introduce reforms to staffing procedure in the Scottish NHS to ensure that staffing levels are always at the level required, starting with nursing and midwifery.

The need for such a bill is chronic. A report by the Royal College of Nurses compiled in response to the government consultation found that 55% of respondents reported frequent shortfalls in staffing levels, and that 41% of all shifts were below safe levels.

But Labour has also zeroed in on the fact that one in five nurses is now temporary staff. Agency spending on outside nurses has ballooned from £4 million to £83 million in the last seven years - but even this isn’t taking up all the slack. Vacancies in nursing and midwifery have quadrupled. The reason is that the private agencies charge excessive fees to fulfil staffing needs, and it’s costing Scotland’s NHS dearly.

Responding to the bill, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“The soaring costs of agency spending for nursing and midwifery jobs in the past ten years shows the absolute mess the SNP government has made of workforce planning.

“It was Nicola Sturgeon as health secretary who force through cuts to training places for nurses and midwives. We are seeing the effects of that now with a 522 per cent increase in agency spending since.

“This cannot go on. The health service is our most valuable public service – it shouldn’t be boosting the profit margins of private companies.

“Richard Leonard has pledged that the next Scottish Labour government will legislate to cap the profits of private agencies in the health service – If the SNP wants to start fixing this workforce crisis it should work with Labour to deliver this cap in the safe staffing bill.”

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