Hospital trusts in Kirklees and Calderdale, fighting to keep their wards safely staffed, may struggle to curb their spending on expensive agency employees.
This is despite an NHS cap, which came into effect on April 1, limiting how much trusts can pay their agency staff.
Under the cap, agency staff – including doctors, nurses and non-clinical staff – must not be paid greater than 55% more than their NHS colleagues.
But Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust, which has been struggling to staff its wards with in-house staff, spent £14.3m on agency staff in 2014/15, a substantial proportion of its £343m annual budget.
And the figure for 2015/16 is expected to be around £19m – including doctors, nurses and non-clinical staff – when the trust publishes its annual report in June.
But Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust (CHFT) has said that staffing its front lines is its top priority.
CHFT Chief Operating Officer, Helen Barker, said: “Our trust, like all trusts, is working hard to keep our agency spend to a minimum yet will always continue to spend to ensure our frontline teams on the wards can continue to provide safe, quality compassionate care.
“As another measure we are also trying to recruit staff into substantive posts.”
Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust, which manages Dewsbury District Hospital, said it aimed to stay within the spending cap but that ‘staffing gaps regularly need(ed) to be filled’.
Trust Acting Chief Nurse, David Melia, said: “Patient care and safety is the primary consideration for any trust and for the majority, including us, it means staffing gaps regularly need to be filled.
“As a trust we are looking at alternative ways of working so that we can have a more flexible workforce. We’re encouraging more and more of our clinical staff to work on the NHS Bank, as it gives us a much tighter control on costs and we’re also working with NHS Improvement to look at ways we can reduce our overall reliance on agency workers.”
But Mr Melia added: “There’s no doubt that these additional staff members are a valuable resource to the NHS but we need to do all we can to attract more permanent clinical staff into the organisation.”
MYHT Director of HR, Angela Wilkinson, added: “As a trust we are working with the NHS guidelines to ensure we do all we can to stay within the agency spend cap.”