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Cost of temp maternity staff rises to almost £100m in 2016

31 October, 2017

Cost of temp maternity staff rises to almost £100m in 2016

NHS spending on midwifery agency, bank staff and overtime in the UK reached more than £97m in 2016 according to an RCM report.

The report published today (31 October) details spending in maternity units in 98% of NHS organisations in the UK. 

It shows that in 2016, 26 NHS organisations spent over £1m on agency, bank or overtime staff. Of the 26 organisations, 24 are in England with one each in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There were nine organisations that spent over £2m.
 
The findings come from a freedom of information (FOI) request investigating the costs of temporary staffing through agency, overtime and bank use. 
 
A total of more than £97m was spent on midwifery agency, bank and overtime payments in 2016 throughout the UK. This is enough to pay for 2731 full-time and experienced midwives or 4391 newly qualified midwives.
 
The FOI found that the average hourly spend for an agency midwife was £43.65. This is compared to a permanently employed midwife with 10 years’ experience working full time in the NHS, for which the average hourly rate across the UK is around £18.30. The revelation comes as England struggles to maintain its maternity services with a shortage of 3500 full-time midwives.
 
In Autumn 2015, the government placed a cap on agency spending in NHS trusts in England. Maternity units in England spent £20,635,047.30 on agency midwives in 2016, which is down slightly from spending on agency midwives in 2015, which was £24,950,157. 

However, bank spending has leapt from £43,225,603 in 2015 to £58,646,085.50 in 2016, showing that the agency cap has not tackled the underlying problem and maternity units’ reliance on temporary staffing is still growing year-on-year.
 
The problems are also serious in other UK countries. In Northern Ireland NHS organisations spent £3.2m on agency, bank and overtime in maternity in 2016. In Scotland NHS organisations spent £5.3m and in Wales they spent £1,286,234.82.
 
The RCM believes that the current shortage of 3500 midwives and seven years of pay restraint are the two most significant factors contributing to the rise in spending on temporary staffing. 

The RCM has concerns the shortage of midwives could grow even further across the UK because of the introduction of tuition fees and removal of the bursary for student midwives this year; the continuing uncertainty around midwives from other EU countries right to remain following Brexit; and retention of existing midwives in an increasingly pressured service.
 
In 2016 the RCM conducted research of the reasons why midwives leave, or are considering leaving, midwifery and found that 80% of midwives said they would stay in midwifery if their pay increased.
 
RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes said: ‘This report shows quite clearly that our maternity services are under staffed and under resourced. The use of temporary midwives to staff permanent shortages is counter-productive and smacks of short-termism when there needs to be sensible and strategic long term planning in midwifery and across the NHS. 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 in the first place.
 
‘The first positive step the government could take is to end public sector pay restraint and fully fund a pay rise for midwives, MSWs and other NHS staff. This would retain hard-working, experienced midwives in the service so that when new midwives are trained they are reducing the shortage rather than replacing the midwives who’ve had enough of seeing their pay packet dwindle while they’re working harder and harder.
 
‘The average midwife has seen their salary decrease in value by over £6000 since 2010 so it is little wonder why midwives are looking for opportunities elsewhere. This report shows that the vast amounts of money spent on temporary staffing can and should be used to recruit and retain permanent staff and is proof that fair pay for midwives is overdue.
 
‘We have a NHS and maternity service that is heading for a crisis and the government’s policies are clearly failing. This government must ensure NHS maternity services have the staffing and resources they need to meet the demands they are facing, so that they can deliver the safest and best possible care for women and their families. A fundamental part of the necessary resources for running the service is funding for a fair pay award for midwives and other NHS staff.’

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