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Short-term view on maternity staff cost NHS £100m in 2016

The combined cost of bank staff, agency workers and overtime cover pay for midwives reached £97m in 2016.

Figures from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) show that temporary staff are being used across the NHS to plug gaps left by understaffing – costing more in the long term.

Agency staff can cost more than twice the price of a trained NHS midwife, with their average hourly rate reaching £43.65 compared to the £18.30 cost of regular staff.

There is currently a nationwide shortage of around 3,500 staff but the union says this money would be enough to pay for 2,731 full-time and experienced midwives or 4,391 newly qualified midwives.

The RCM believe the cap on wages has caused the shortage of staff, which in turn led to higher temporary staff spending.

Although the government has placed a limit on the amount trusts can spend on agency workers, this has served only to drive up the number of bank staff which are used. Spending on these employees went from £43m in 2015 to £58m in 2016 even though agency costs fell by £4m in the same period.

“This report shows quite clearly that our maternity services are under staffed and under resourced,” commented Jon Skewes, RCM director of policy, employment relations and communications.

“The use of temporary midwives to staff permanent shortages is counter-productive and smacks of short-termism when there needs to be sensible and strategic long-term planning in midwifery and across the NHS.

“It is costing more in the long run to pay agency, bank and overtime than it would if services employed the right numbers of midwives in the first place.”

The midwifery union is also concerned that the shortage of midwives could continue to grow across the UK because of the introduction of tuition fees and removal of the student bursary, the continuing uncertainty around non-UK staff after Brexit, and the retention of staff in an under-pressure environment.

Skewes added: “We have a NHS and maternity service that is heading for a crisis and the government’s policies are clearly failing.

“This government must ensure NHS maternity services have the staffing and resources they need to meet the demands they are facing, so that they can deliver the safest and best possible care for women and their families.

“A fundamental part of the necessary resources for running the service is funding for a fair pay award for midwives and other NHS staff.”

Top image: Asiseeit

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