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Agency charging hospitals nearly £2,000 for specialist nurse shift

An agency providing last-minute freelance nurses to NHS hospitals is routinely charging up to £2,000 a shift, BBC News has discovered.

Glen Burley, chief executive of an NHS trust, said that Thornbury Nursing Services is targeting areas in England where nurses are in short supply. He says it is "profiteering" from an overstretched NHS, but Thornbury says it offers a valuable, flexible service.

The government says new measures will end the use of expensive agencies. However, Labour has said the high costs are a result of the "Conservatives' failure to train enough nurses over the past 14 years".

Under NHS rules, hospital managers are obliged to use staffing agencies that work within an agreed framework, with a limit or cap on how much should be paid. But when last-minute essential cover is needed, trusts may use off-framework agencies, such as Thornbury. These are not legally obliged to abide by pre-agreed pay scales.

Workload pressures in the NHS and a desire for more flexibility over shifts are thought to be driving more nurses to work for such agencies, which tend to pay the people on their books more while also taking a payment for themselves.

BBC News has discovered Thornbury charges almost £2,000 for a 12-hour bank holiday shift by a specialist paediatric nurse - an area of expertise where there are known staff shortages. Of that, BBC News calculates the nurse receives about £1,050 - meaning nearly £800 goes to the agency. 

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Source: BBC News, 8 May 2024


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