Two acute trusts that were taken out of special measures after recruiting scores of nurses have slid back to their old staffing levels, HSJ analysis shows.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and North Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals Foundation Trust were among the 11 providers placed in special measures in 2013 after a review by NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

United Lincolnshire Hospitals has struggled to replace nurses leaving the Pilgrim Hospital

Monthly data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre for 2013-14, 2014-15 and the first quarter of 2015-16 shows both trusts had significant year on year falls in substantive nurse headcount after exiting special measures.

United Lincolnshire left the regime in March and North Lincolnshire exited in July 2014.

In the first quarter of 2013-14, immediately after being put in special measures, United Lincolnshire employed 2,202 nurses. During the same period in 2014-15 the figure was 2,312 – an increase of 5 per cent.

But the latest data shows a fall of slightly more than 5 per cent by the same period in 2015-16, when 2,193 nurses were employed.

Over the whole of 2014-15, its spending on agency staff was £21.6m, up from £21.3m the previous year.

Pauleen Pratt, chief nurse at the trust, said: “The turnover of nurses and midwives remains constant. The number of substantive nurses has fallen since last year as we struggle to replace the staff who leave, particularly at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.”

The problems come despite the board investing an extra £500,000 on nursing staff last December. The organisation hoped to recruit 39 registered nurses and 26 unregistered with the money.

In October the trust recruited 20 nurses from Poland and Romania, a spokeswoman said.

In the first quarter of 2013-14 North Lincolnshire employed 1,688 nurses, during the same period in 2014-15 the figure was 1,775 – also an increase of 5 per cent.

But there was a fall of 4.1 per cent by the same period in 2015-16, when 1,702 nurses were employed.

Over the whole of 2014-15, the trust’s spending on agency staff was £21.4m, up from £15.3m the previous year.

The trust told HSJ that until the announcements by the health secretary on agency staffing in June, it had not monitored how much of its spending was with more expensive off-framework agencies and had used its own “evaluation matrix” to assign shifts.

Take the HSJ workforce investigation survey

The data in this story comes from a larger analysis of agency spending by HSJ.

The research will be discussed and full findings revealed at the War on Variation Summit, in association with McKinsey. Trust directors interested in attending this event please contact HSJ commissioning editor nosmot.gbadamosi@emap.com

Analysis: Growth in off-framework agency spending revealed