THE new chief executive of the county’s hospitals has vowed to take hard line on expensive agency staff as he battles to pull the troubled trust out of special measures.

Matthew Hopkins, who took over the role of chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust in January, said he would be taking a “hard line” on expensive agency staff across the trust’s hospitals as he looks to reduce some of the £21 million the trust currently spends.

Mr Hopkins said the trust forks out around £21 million on agency staff due to shortages - nationally and locally - a figure which he said is at least £5 million too much.

At a meeting of Worcestershire County Council's health overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday (April 8), the new chief executive admitted the changes would put pressure on staffing but he wanted to ensure the ‘Worcestershire pound’ was spent effectively.

He said: "In areas of the hospital where there is a national staff shortage the market drives up the price that individuals are willing to work for.

“We are going to take quite a hard line on those individuals who have been working for quite a lot of money alongside colleagues that are earning the normal rate within the NHS.

“It can’t be right and it can’t be respectful to our staff that a colleague working alongside them is earning sometimes three times the amount that they are.

"We are going to have a real focus on driving down the price we pay so that the number of staff - particularly doctors - that are working above that £120 an hour cap is reduced significantly.

"We have already made some progress but we are going to have to take quite a hard line.

“If we can persuade some of those to become substantive staff we will do but where we have, across the country, individuals who are flitting about like butterflies for the highest price, we kind of need to say that you are no longer welcome in our garden.

"You need to go somewhere else."