WORKFORCE: High levels of activity are keeping pay costs high at Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust.

“Activity pressure to achieve the 18 week referral to treatment target and ward closures due to norovirus continue to put pressure on the pay-bill,” March board papers said.

The pay bill for February was £17.6m. “This is partly due to high nursing agency costs continuing during February… to cover vacancies, sickness, ward closures due to infection, and an establishment review due to complexity of case-mix on the spinal wards”, the board was told.

“Agency costs have also increased in respect of staffing escalation beds at Stoke Mandeville.

“Costs continue to accrue in relation to the 18 week activity target. Within the surgery division over £1m has now been spent on additional sessions including £260,000 in respect of work outsourced to another provider.”

The report said NHS Professionals was unable to meet demand for bank workers, forcing the trust to increase its use of agency staff.

“Temporary staffing spend in the division of medicine is of particular concern, with figures showing spend in February to be the highest to date this financial year and almost twice the spend of the same month in 2011.”

“Our organisation like many other NHS organisation in January and February experienced challenging operational pressures on our urgent care pathway and inpatient capacity.

Demand for temporary nurses and healthcare support workers was up by 12 per cent since November 2011.