• Mackey warns that some trusts ”simply aren’t doing enough” to cut their spending on agency staff
  • Warning comes as NHS Improvement tells MPs that agency caps have saved up to £300m since October 2015
  • Also follows complaints that some trusts have faced staffing problems due to neighbours breaching agency caps
  • Experts warn that policy cannot be evaluated without more data on staffing fill rates

Exclusive: The chief executive of NHS Improvement has issued a stern warning to trusts that “aren’t doing enough” to cut their agency staff spending, as the regulator released new figures on the effect of the agency pay caps.

Jim Mackey made the comments exclusively to HSJ, ahead of a hearing on the NHS’s finances at the Commons health committee this afternoon.

In a submission to the select committee, NHS Improvement has estimated that the agency spending controls phased in since October 2015 have so far saved the NHS up to £300m.

The regulator estimates that the health service will have spent £3.7bn on temporary staff in 2015-16, against a £4bn spend that was projected for the year prior to the controls’ introduction.

The NHS Improvement analysis also says that the adjusted average price paid for a nursing shift has been driven down by 10 per cent.

However, independent analysts have warned that the agency cap policy cannot be properly evaluated without detailed data on areas like staff fill rates, which NHS Improvement has said it does not hold.

The experts argue that this data is necessary to establish whether some trusts are leaving shifts unfilled to avoid breaching agency caps, with corresponding implications for patient safety.

And in recent weeks there have been several cases of trusts complaining that their services have faced staffing shortages because neighbouring providers have been willing to breach the caps.

In a statement issued to HSJ ahead of the committee hearing, Mr Mackey said: “These measures are absolutely crucial. We know this is difficult but there are trusts that simply aren’t doing enough to reduce their spending on agency staff.

“These figures show the significant savings that can be achieved and we have seen many examples of trusts doing really positive things to encourage staff back into full-time or bank roles.

“I want all hospitals to take these measures seriously and to work with us on making meaningful changes to how they approach the issue of agency staffing.”

He added: “We’ve known the scale of the financial challenge facing the NHS for some time and dramatically reducing the amount of money hospitals spend on agency staff is a key part of our plan to balance the books.

“The measures have had a real impact and we are starting to see a significant reduction in the amount of NHS money being paid to these agencies. We need to keep up the pressure and make sure the era of overreliance on agency staff comes to an end.”

Mackey: Some trusts 'not doing enough' to tackle agency spending