NHS at ‘crisis point’ as funding on temporary staff reaches £423m

New figures have revealed that NHS spending on locum doctors and agency nurses has increased 30% from 2021.

NHS workforce at ‘crisis point’ as funding on temporary staff reaches £423m, say Scottish Conservatives iStock
NHS spending on temporary staff has reached a new high.

The Scottish Conservatives have said that the NHS workforce is reaching “crisis point” as new figures reveal that funding on temporary staff in the last year has reached £423m.

This new figure is an increase of 30% from the previous year – and almost double what was spent on provisional staff in 2014/15.

It comes after the Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Radiology warned that extreme shortages in nurses and cancer specialists were “threatening patient safety”.

The Tories have accused the SNP of providing “wasteful management” to the NHS and have called on health secretary Humza Yousaf to commit to an overhaul of the health provider’s workforce.

Scottish conservative health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “These figures are a damning indictment of the SNP’s wasteful and inefficient management of our NHS.

“Having been both fully employed and a locum doctor with the NHS, I know that locum doctors and nurses are an essential part of our healthcare service – but under the SNP, they have become a crutch for our chronically understaffed system.

“Hospitals are crying out for full-time doctors and nurses, yet instead of focusing on growing the robust, permanent workforce Scotland needs, the SNP has allowed dangerous staffing shortages to arise across the country while papering over the cracks with temporary staff.

“Some of this locum spending will have even gone towards permanent staff or retirees begged to take on extra shifts, in order to plug the enormous gaps in the workforce.

“It is also particularly concerning to see such huge increases in spending on agency staff, as this not only comprises the salaries of temporary doctors and nurses, but fees paid to the private agencies that supply them, as well.

“Our NHS workforce is rapidly reaching a crisis point and unless Humza Yousaf urgently commits to an ambitious overhaul of workforce planning, this wasteful, dysfunctional system will only get worse.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Spend on agency nursing in Scotland – utilised during the pandemic – represents less than 1% of the overall staffing budget with the majority of temporary staffing coming from the NHS Staff Bank, which has NHS staff on NHS contracts.

“Despite the pressures of the pandemic we have already delivered a record number of GPs working in Scotland, with more per head than any other country in the UK, and we’re committed to further increasing the number of GPs in Scotland by 800 by 2027.

“We are on track to meet that commitment and have also recruited over 2,400 healthcare experts through the GP Contract to support practices.

“We are fully aware of the difficult circumstances that boards and front-line staff are working in, which is why we have worked hard to ensure that our NHS maintains the increased numbers of staff we’ve seen over the past 10 consecutive years.

“Nursing and midwifery staff numbers are at record high levels across the country – up by 14.5%. We have also continued our long-term investment in nursing and midwifery education, with record numbers of funded places this academic year.

“Student nurses and midwives entering funded degree programmes will increase for the 10th consecutive year in 2022-23, meaning student places have doubled in the last decade.

“We have also committed over £1bn to our NHS Recovery Plan, and £300m which was announced last winter to support additional recruitment, which is already paying off.”