Brentwood health trust to spend �9.3m for temp staff this year, despite cuts

The trust which provides mental health, social care and community services in Brentwood, will spend at least �9.3m on temporary staff this year.

The spending comes despite the trust being included in plans to save a quarter of the area’s NHS budget over the next four years.

NHS South West Essex announced last week that it will be saving �184m over the next four years.

But South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (SEPT) spent �24,538,927 on hiring staff through employment agencies in the 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2010/11 financial years.

SEPT has recently closed 36 beds at mental health units in south west Essex, including Brentwood, and forms a part of NHS South West Essex’s plans to cut the equivalent of a quarter of its annual budget over the next four years.

NHS South West Essex has reduced its direct spending on agency staff from �9m in 2009/10 to �1m this financial year.

‘Short notice’

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But figures obtained by the Recorder show that SEPT expects to spend �9.3m on agency staff in 2011/12 – a figure which excludes several newly acquired services which do not yet form part of its overall spend.

Emma Boon, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be concerned to see that the expected spend for agency staff is to be higher than it was in the last financial year.

“There will always be a need for some temps, but with money tight the NHS needs to cut back on using them where possible.”

A spokesman for SEPT said: “Whilst the trust makes every effort to minimise use of agency in order to keep costs low, it may still remain necessary to engage agency staff in difficult to recruit clinical areas such as for medical staff where essential cover is needed at short notice.

“The organisational changes faced by the NHS as a whole including by SEPT means agency staff are used in some cases as a temporary measure to aid job security in the longer term by avoiding making new permanent appointments, and thus holding vacancies open for staff affected by change so they can potentially be redeployed”.

The trust has previously said that the closure of beds in mental health centres is part of a change in strategy, not a cost-cutting measure.

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