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Ipswich Hospital spends £11m on agency staff in a year to tackle 'spike in demand'

PUBLISHED: 09:05 14 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:05 14 June 2016

Ipswich Hospital car park.

Ipswich Hospital car park.

Ipswich Hospital spent £11,421,000 on agency staff in one year, new figures reveal.

The sum, which the hospital’s spokeswoman Jan Ingle said had helped them keep up with a “rapid spike in demand” last winter, is calculated from March 2015 to the same month this year.

Nearly 11,000 nursing shifts (10,933) were covered by agency staff during the same period.

Mrs Ingle said £11m may “seem like an enormous amount of money”, but is justified to ensure patients are “kept safe” and are “well cared for” during high-pressure periods.

This year has seen record patient numbers in departments such as A&E, with 300 patients visiting in just one day in March, compared with a daily average of 230. “We only ever use agency staff if we absolutely have to,” Mrs Ingle said. “They are used to make sure the wards and clinical areas are of a safe standard.

“It does seem like an enormous amount of money, but we do so to ensure our patients are safe and the hospital runs efficiently in times of both high and low demand.

“We have to be realistic. No matter how good our own staff are, there are going to be times – which there have been a lot of this year – where we are extremely busy.” The hospital has an in-house staff bank, from which most temporary staff are sourced.

Mrs Ingle added: “The majority of people in this bank work part-time and agree to work additional hours.

“When we are busy, they will volunteer.

“But when we can’t use our own staff to cover extra shifts, we employ agency staff to cover.

“The demand for nurses and temporary staff at our hospital has been very high this year as there are so many people arriving here and needing beds.”

A bed cannot be opened without a staff member being present, so extra people are taken on to tackle the rise in demand, she added.

The hospital recruits using a range of agencies which offer various members of staff with different skill sets.

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