HOSPITAL bosses hope they can one day stop employing expensive premium rate agency nurses altogether.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust spent £1.36 million on temporary staff in October, up from £1.23 million the previous month.

Of this total, £940,000 was spent on medical staff and £293,000 on nursing staff.

Mark Wake, the trust’s chief medical officer, said the trust was to some extent “dependent” on using agency and locum staff which can, in some cases, cost twice as much as using the trust’s own staff.

He said the trust was hoping to enter into a long term arrangement with one particular agency with the aim of keeping such costs down.

However, spending on agency nurses, one form of temporary staffing, has dropped to £50,000 a month and, based on appropriate rostering, finance chief Chris Tidman said “it should now be possible to consider ceasing the need to employ agency nurses”.

NHS bosses try to use their own medical and nursing staff on the wards because it is cheaper.

Sometimes they are forced to turn to agency nurses to staff the wards if their own staff are sick or they are struggling to fill vacancies.

Chris Tidman, the trust’s director of resources, wrote: “Medical agency spending continues to be high, with long term challenges in recruitment in key specialties such as A&E, obstetrics and paediatrics.”

Total medical staffing costs were £5.6 million in October compared with £5.4 million the previous month.

The rise in cost has been blamed on a series of factors including double running of anaesthetic junior doctor posts to prepare for on-call responsibility, additional agency physician posts to improve the flow of medical patients and cover for sickness and other absence.

Mr Tidman added: “On the positive side, a number of substantive appointments are due to commence in post during the next few months.

“However, the emergence of a number of additional cost pressures has meant that this planned saving on costs is taking longer to realise.”

Total nursing staffing costs were £7 million in October, reducing from £7.2 million a month over the past four months.