• United Lincolnshire is predicting an overspend on agency staff of £12m due to high turnover
  • The trust has said it needs to make progress on medical recruitment
  • Staff shortages have already prompted an interim maternity and children’s model at one hospital site

A Lincolnshire trust is predicting it will spend £32m on agency staff by the end of the year due to a high vacancy rate and staff turnover.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has reported in its board papers that agency staff spend so far this year is already £2.6m over budget, which it predicts will result in a £32m spend at the end of the financial year.

The trust’s agency spend ceiling is set at £20.9m but last year it spent £29m on agency staff. It said the increase in agency usage across the month was authorised to ensure safe staffing levels were maintained.

Staffing shortages at the trust prompted the implementation of an interim service model for children’s and maternity services at the trust’s Pilgrim Hospital in August.

The model was introduced to keep patients safe after a shortage of middle grade doctors, the trust confirmed. As part of the model, Pilgrim Hospital manages only low-risk neonatal births.

The £437m-turnover trust has been using private ambulances to transfer patients as part of the model and medical director Neill Hepburn said in the first five weeks 50 patients were transferred.

“We continue with our efforts to recruit additional middle grade doctors,” Dr Hepburn said.

ULHT director of human resources Martin Rayson told HSJ the current month-on-month spend meant the year-end position will be “significantly” above the £20m target.

“The main cause of this is an increase in staff turnover, [which] increased from eight per cent in July 2017 to 9.7 per cent one year later,” Mr Rayson said. “The overall vacancy rate is now 14.2 per cent, compared to 10 per cent one year ago.”

Mr Rayson said the increase in agency spend was being driven by increasing medical vacancies.

“[The] key is to look at reducing demand, through bolstering our efforts to recruit, through the use of agencies and recruitment open days,” Mr Rayson said.

He added that the trust had recently recruited 100 newly-qualified nurses and stressed “we need to make similar progress on medical recruitment if we are to reduce current agency spend levels”.