NHS Wales spent £260 million on agency staff in 2022
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.
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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