The amount spent by a north-east health board on agency staffing has increased by nearly £4 million.
NHS Grampian board papers have revealed today the increase in agency and bank nursing spend in the north-east.
High levels of vacancies at the health board have been blamed for the increase in cover and over-reliance on agency staff.
Job vacancies have increased in the nursing and midwifery ward from 448.5 wte (Whole Time Equivalent) from March 2018 to 498.3 wte in March this year.
Board papers said the health board has had “significant challenges” with regards to consultant vacancies.
Nine new consultants have been taken on by NHS Grampian but they have yet to officially start their roles.
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A workplace plan which was to be considered by its members today said: “NHS Grampian’s expenditure on agency and bank spend for the 2018-19 financial year was £51.5m, compared with £47.6m, in 2017-18.
“NHS Grampian continues to experience challenges in the supply of the medical workforce which necessitates the need for change and further development of transformational roles.
“Consultant vacancies continue to present significant challenges across NHS Grampian, with reported vacancies having increased from 6.8% to 7.8% of establishment in the last three years.”
NHS Grampian needs to find savings of £10.2m in this current financial year and it is estimated similar savings will be needed in each of the next three years.
The workplace plan added: “The expenditure on bank nursing is 0.2% (£31k) above the level recorded for 2017-18. Expenditure on agency nursing is significantly above the 2017-18 level and is the highest for any health board in Scotland.
“The level of this spend is planned and reflects the need to use agency nursing staff to cover high vacancy levels in areas such as critical care, theatres and mental health.
“At the end of March, expenditure on medical locums had increased by £6.9k compared to the same period in 2017-18.
“Reduction in the use of locums in the acute sector is balanced by an increased use of locums in mental health and assessment services.”
Professor Amanda Croft, chief executive in NHS Grampian, said: “This plan sets out our direction of travel for the workforce in anticipation of the changing landscape in health and social care.
“This plan highlights how NHS Grampian intends to implement change in relation to the workforce, whilst recognising that there will be other strategies supporting transformation.
“The board is committed to providing a culture that encourages all staff to provide feedback and influence improvements to provide high quality care.
“There will be a focus on staff wellbeing, communication and listening to the views of our workforce to take forward all the commitments outlined throughout this plan.”
The NHS Grampian board meeting was due to be held at the Alexander Graham Bell Centre at Moray College in Elgin today.