NHS nurses

NHS’s £3.2bn agency spend could have paid for 31,000 full-time nurses, says RCN

NHS trusts spent £3.2bn on hospital agency fees between 2020 and 2022, according to new data released by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The union highlights this could have been better used to eliminate three-quarters of the nursing vacancies in England – for around the same cost, 30,956 permanent full-time equivalent nursing roles could have been filled at the top of band five salary (£34,581).

As the 40,000 vacant nursing posts loom, so does the increasing agency spend year on year. Agency staff cost the health service approximately £800m in 2020 before increasing by 63% in 2022 to £1.3bn.

The capital experienced the biggest outlay as agency fees reached £630m, while the North of England spent £109m across the three years.

                                                                         Video credit: Canva

The RCN is also calling on the government to abolish tuition fees for nursing students, as figures show the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan’s commitment to train more healthcare professionals could be in jeopardy.

The most statistics show a 12% drop in the number of people accepted onto nursing courses, which set an average student back £50,000.

The union is also campaigning for loan forgiveness to be afforded to those who have already paid for their education.

“With cuts to nurse education and maintaining unfair pay levels, ministers are choosing to spend the money on much higher private agency bills instead,” said the RCN’s chief nurse, Professor Nicola Ranger. “This is yet another false economy when it comes to NHS spending.”

Prof Ranger added: “This should act as a wake-up call. The government must give nursing staff and patients the investment and respect they deserve. Not acting now will mean even more patients on waiting lists and the crisis in the nursing workforce deepening further.”

Image credit: iStock

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