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‘Costs of agency staff are spiraling out of control say midwives’

23 January, 2016

‘Costs of agency staff are spiraling out of control say midwives’

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NHS trusts in England pay almost fifty pounds per hour for agency midwives when the normal rate of pay for a Band 6 midwife with ten years’ experience is £17.84 an hour.

Today The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) released findings of a report into the cost of agency staff. The report entitled ‘Spending On Agency Midwives in England’ is a result of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that the RCM sent to 136 NHS trusts in England last year about their spend on agency midwives.

The FOI had a response rate of over 95 per-cent with 130 trusts responding and found that over 73 per-cent of trusts in London with maternity services rely on agency midwives to staff their services.

Findings included:

  • The spend on agency midwives increased from £10,159,099 in 2012 to £17,849,767 in 2014; an increase of almost 76 per-cent.
  • In July 2015 the RCM also surveyed its members; respondents said they were paid £22.84 an hour. The earlier FOI revealed that trusts reported that this spend per hour was £49.01 in 2014. (Indicating that half of the spend per hour for midwives goes on agency fees and other on-costs.)
  • There were eleven trusts that spent over £1 million on agency midwives in the three year period with one trust spending £4,482,432 on agency midwives between 2012-2014.
  • The spend per hour of £49.01 is more than 2.7 times the amount for a permanently employed midwife and more than 1.8 times the amount of paying overtime.

Commenting Jon Skewes, Director for policy, employment relations and communication at the RCM says; “These findings show that some trusts in England are heavily reliant on agency midwives to ensure they can provide a safe service and these costs are spiralling out of control year after year. This is an incredibly expensive and wasteful way to staff maternity units especially because over half the spend per hour that the trusts are paying is not going to the midwives but are on-costs going to the agencies.”

“We have found that many midwives who chose to work for an agency did so because they were denied the right to work part-time or flexibly. In turn we have a ridiculous situation when midwives leave an organisation because they can’t work flexibly and then are employed by the same trust as an agency midwife. This results in the trust paying 2.7 times more for that midwife, and over half of that goes to the agency.”

“The costs of agency staff are spiralling out of control year after year. The best solution to this problem is to eliminate the shortage of midwives by training and employing more midwives and retaining existing midwives by treating them fairly and valuing them. This can only be achieved by fair pay policies and granting flexible working requests.”

“We have found that too often trusts tightly control the spending on bank shifts and overtime for midwives which results in an over reliance on agency midwives. This is clearly more expensive and needs to be corrected sooner rather than later. Mangers should be authorised to pay voluntary overtime to existing staff rather than calling in more expensive agency staff.”

“Women deserve high quality and safe care and the way for trusts to provide this is to ensure their units are staffed correctly and funding for maternity services pays directly for the services rather than going to employment agencies.”

The main findings of the RCM report: Spending On Agency Midwives in England:

  • The spending on agency increased from £10,159,099 in 2012 to £17,849,767 in 2014; an increase of 75.7%.
  • Trusts in England spent £17,849,767 on agency staff in 2014; this would pay the salaries of 511 experienced full time midwives.
  • Overwhelmingly, the trusts that use agency staff are in the London region, with 73.7% of trusts in London using agency midwives.
  • There were eleven trusts that spent over £1 million on agency midwives in the three year period with one trust spending £4,482,432 on agency midwives between 2012-2014.
  • According to our survey of midwives, on average, respondents said they were paid £22.84 an hour. This is a striking difference to the Freedom of Information request as the trusts reported that the spend per hour was £49.01 in 2014. This would indicate that over half of the spend per hour for midwives goes on agency fees and other on-costs.
  • The normal rate of pay for a Band 6 midwife with ten years experience is £17.84 an hour and when a midwife works overtime (any hours worked over 37.5 per week) they get paid time and a half which would be £26.76 an hour. The spend per hour of £49.01 is more than 2.7 times the amount for a permanently employed midwife and more than 1.8 times the amount of payingovertime.
  • Most midwives who work agency shifts do so in addition to a permanent post; the most common reason for midwives to only work for an agency was the need to work flexible shifts and the most common reason for midwives to work agency shifts in addition to their permanent post was the need to supplement their income.

 

 

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