Concerns over rising cost of using agency workers to plug NHS staffing gaps across Fife in recent years

Fife’s Liberal Democrats have drawn attention to “serious problems facing NHS Fife in recruitment”, especially relating to dental and medical staff

Group leader Councillor Tim Brett said his concerns were reignited by a recent Audit Scotland report showing an increase of 107% in agency spending from £82.8 million to £171.4 million in the last five years across Scotland.

Fife’s spending alone was more than £7 million, with the sum spent said to be gradually increasing over the recording period.

NHS Fife has stated that action taken by the board has seen this figure be reduced, but Mr Brett believes the use of agency nurses points to a broader staffing problem.

“I was very concerned to see that in NHS Fife the use of agency staff has increased more than in other parts of Scotland, with the board incurring a cost of over £7 million,” Mr Brett noted.

“I would want to acknowledge the board’s work in trying to address this critical issue, given the increases in patient demand faced by all parts of the health service due to patients presenting with more complex conditions.

“However, it must be noted that the responsibility for staffing numbers rests firmly with the Scottish Government.

“Their reduction in medical staff training places in Scotland must be contributing to the problems now faced by the service.

“I will continue to monitor the effects of this situation on both the staffing and the costs of the service.”

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said he also shared Mr Brett’s concerns over staffing in Fife.

He remarked: ‘This is a huge increase in the cost of employing bank staff, showing that the local NHS is under real pressure.

“Patching up gaps in staffing with temporary employees is not sustainable in the long run.

“This is an amber warning for NHS bosses which should result in firmer action before the situation worsens.”

Director of human resources at NHS Fife, Barbara-Anne Nelson, defended the use of agency and bank staff, but confirmed that the health board was working hard to bring its reliance on them down.

“Across the NHS, agency use is commonplace and regularly used to cover absence or fill posts on a temporary basis while recruitment is underway,” she said.

“Our spend on agency staff compares well with other boards, particularly when understood as a proportion of our overall workforce.

“Whilst we are not complacent, we have has a number of significant recruitment successes in the past few months and have reduced our agency spend by a fifth over the last year.

“We are working to further reduce this figure in the future.”

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