NHS Lothian Achieves Huge Savings on Agency Nurses

NHS Lothian has reduced its agency nursing costs dramatically in the last three years, according to a paper to be discussed at the board's meeting on May 23rd, 2007.

The resources saved from not using expensive agency nurses are being reinvested in patient care - so patients are benefiting in a number of ways from the successes being achieved in nurse staffing in the Lothians.

Heather Tierney-Moore, Director of Nursing, NHS Lothian, said:

"We have been able to reduce our agency nursing costs by £6.5m since 2004 through a combination of measures. These include swifter recruitment to vacant posts and greater use of our own staff bank - trained nurses who work for NHS Lothian on an "as and when needed" basis.
"These efforts are of great value to patients, who are receiving a greater continuity of care while our work is also generating considerable savings which are being reinvested into patient care. We would like to thank staff for their hard work in making these improvements and savings possible.
"The creation of a single board staff bank has been instrumental in sharing good practice and facilitating lateral staffing solutions across NHS Lothian with the effect of moving the supply of cover from agency to bank sources. This has been achieved at no detriment - and considerable benefit - to patient care."

NHS Lothian spent just nearly £11m on agency nurses in 2003/4 - and has cut that figure to just over £4m in 2006-7, according to the latest available figures.

This level of expenditure on agency nurses is the lowest since 2000.

NHS Lothian has focussed on the factors leading to the need for supplementary staffing in its move to control spending. Faster recruitment processes has led to a reduction in cover required for vacancies, while proactively working with staff around reducing sickness absence has also been a major success factor. Addressing issues such as staff retention - therefore avoiding vacancies in the first place - has also been important.

The nurse bank employs a large number of nurses who work flexibly across the Lothians. Bank nurse staff are on NHS Lothian's payroll and are paid for the hours they work. Experienced nursing staff sometimes prefer to go on the bank, as it's known, so they can pick and choose hours to fit in with their home lives or childcare commitments.

Bank nurses are well trained and experienced and used to working within NHS Lothian.

1) NHS Lothian was commended by Audit Scotland for its management of the Staff Bank in its 2007 report "Planning Ward Nursing - Legacy or Design?" Audit Scotland praised NHS Lothian's robust authorisation processes for supplementary staff, our candidate-focussed recruitment strategy and our integration of different aspects of nursing workforce planning.