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NHS Wales spent £260 million on agency staff in 2022

12 Jan 2023 3 minute read
Photo Victoria Jones PA Images

The costs of employing agency staff in the NHS has doubled in the past five years according to the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Quoting Welsh Government figures, the RCP said NHS Wales agency spend on its workforce has increased by over a third (36%) in the past year.

Filling workforce gaps went up from £191.5m in 2021 to an eyewatering £260 million last year.

In the past five years, agency spend has almost doubled, increasing by 98% since 2017/18.

The RCP in Wales has just launched a new briefing paper that calls on health boards to further develop and recognise the skills, expertise and contribution of specialist and specialty doctors in Wales.

Staff shortages

The biggest issue facing the NHS is still the lack of staff to assess, treat and care for patients across both health and social care say the RCP in Wales.

According to Dr Olwen Williams, RCP vice president for Wales: “Without root-and-branch reform of social care and a new approach to long-term workforce planning across the whole sector, slowly but surely, the system will continue to collapse in on itself.”

Dr Williams added that staff shortages, “are the biggest challenge we face right now. No amount of financial investment in the NHS can make up for the fact that we simply don’t have enough doctors, nurses and social care workers to keep up with patient demand.”

Agency workers can help the NHS to maintain staffing levels in an emergency said Dr Williams, “becoming overly reliant on locums can have a negative effect on continuity of care, patient safety and team morale.

“NHS staff are working flat out, but there simply aren’t enough of us. Ultimately, we need to know how many staff are needed to keep pace with patient demand, but at the moment we just don’t know the scale of the problem. We’re flying blind.”

Dr Williams said the RCP is expecting a funded, detailed workforce plan from the Welsh Government in the coming weeks.

She added: “We are keen to work with our colleagues across government and the NHS to make sure it makes a difference to people’s lives. Yes, having a plan is the start of the process, and clearly there’s a lot of work ahead of us to implement it, but knowing where we’re going and how we’re going to get there is a vital first step towards co-ordinated, system-wide action.


 A Welsh Government spokesperson told Nation.Cymru: “There are more staff working in NHS Wales than ever before, and this year we are investing record levels in training and professional education – £262m – including more training places than ever before.

“The increase in the costs of agency staffing in both 2020-21 and 2021-22 reflects the impact of the pandemic.

“The Workforce Strategy, published by Health Education and Improvement Wales and Social Care Wales, sets out a long-term vision for the health and social care workforce.”

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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

I have always despised but admired the scam that is Agencies in regards to workers… A middleman who gets a cut of your labour for sending you to do that labour for a boss so hateful, eff’d up and disgusting in their humanity and morality that they don’t want you to a)have even the usual share of the unfair share of the money created by your labour and b) doesn’t want you to have things like holiday entitlement and sick pay. Can you hear that?… I can….its a grating noise, its the noise of your and your children’s futures being… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

The state of the NHS in Wales has nothing to do with the Tories. It’s the Labour Party in Cardiff who are solely to blame. Under the Barnett Formula Wales gets more money per head than the English and it’s not right why the English people should subsudise Wales with more money just because of the Welsh Labour government’s mis-spending. If agency nurses had their wages cut to fall in line with NHS it might prevent NHS staff leaving to become agency nurses which is causing the staffing problems in the NHS. It would also stop agencies profiteering off the… Read more »

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