SNP attacked as bill for agency nurses soars

About 2,000 full-time nurses have been axed from the NHS. Picture: Reuters
About 2,000 full-time nurses have been axed from the NHS. Picture: Reuters
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Hospitals have chalked up a £14 million rise in the bill for agency nurses amid growing pressure on wards, figures out yesterday showed.

Bank and agency staff filled more than 7.1 million ward hours in 2012-13 – a one million rise on the previous year. It contributed to an overall bill of £110m for additional staff.

About 2,000 full-time nurses have been axed in recent years, prompting claims of bad management from opposition MSPs.

Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Such a rapid increase in the use of bank and agency nurses shows a real lack of planning by the SNP.

“This is undermining all the efficiency savings being made across the NHS.

“What is the point in slashing nursing numbers so radically if you’re left having to replace them with more expensive alternatives?

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said the spiralling agency nurse bill shows that taxpayers are “paying through the nose for the SNP government’s mismanagement of our NHS”.

He added: “Whilst they have cut thousands of nursing jobs since they came into office, NHS boards are being forced to take on more expensive agency staff to meet waiting times pressures due to being under-resourced.

But the Scottish Government said statistics show an overall workforce increase of 663 between December last year and March. There are now 42,066 NHS staff in NHS Scotland which is up by more than 1,000 on the figures from September 2006.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “Through the integration of adult health and social care, we are seeing a shift towards more care being provided in the community and the shape and size of our workforce is changing to reflect this.”