NHS: where the money goes – short-term fixes

“The NHS spent almost £100 million on stand-in midwives last year, with the figure for England 20 per cent higher than in the year before.

Jon Skewes, director of policy at the Royal College of Midwives, said that the money could have paid for 4,391 newly qualified midwives or 2,731 more experienced staff.

Years of pay freezes were blamed for driving NHS midwives away, adding to pressure on Philip Hammond, the chancellor, to promise health workers a pay rise in next month’s budget.

The NHS spent £2.9 billion on private agency workers in 2016-17, down from £3.6 billion the year before after pay caps were imposed on nurses, doctors and midwives. Much of the fall was due to the NHS switching from external agencies to in-house “staff banks”, where workers are called in as required.

Data collected by the Royal College of Midwives found that private agency spending in English maternity units fell from £29 million in 2015 to £20.6 million last year. NHS bank staff costs rose from £43.2 million to £58.6 million.

Once overtime is included, spending rose from £72.7 million in 2015 to £87.3 million in 2016. For the first time, the college gathered comparable data from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, finding that overall the NHS spent £97.1 million on maternity gaps.

Mr Skewes said: “The use of temporary midwives to staff permanent shortages is counterproductive and smacks of short-termism . . . It is costing more in the long run to pay agency, bank and overtime than it would if services employed the right numbers of midwives.” He added that the “average midwife has seen their salary decrease in value by over £6,000 since 2010”.

•Charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK joined health bosses and senior doctors to issue a “cry for help” for more money. “Without additional resources there will be a further deterioration in what can be provided for patients, service users and carers”, says a letter also signed by Carrie MacEwen, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, a group for the professional standards bodies that usually stay out of politics.”

Times (pay wall)

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