The NHS should train more staff rather than spending around £2.5bn a year on locum doctors and agency nurses, a think-tank says today.
A larger pool of dependable permanent staff would also enhance workforce stability and patient safety, Civitas said.
Its report said that agency nurses cost in the region of £24 to £29 an hour, equivalent to between £47,000 and £56,000 a year, while the salary for an NHS band 5 nurse is between £21,478 and £27,901. The typical charge for a consultant from an agency is £1,760 a day, equivalent to a salary of £459,000.
Civitas said that as the salary of an NHS consultant is between £75,249 and £101,451, four consultants could be employed by the NHS for the price of one agency staff member.
The Yorkshire Post has already revealed how bills for temporary staff are soaring. At some hospitals they were expected to at least double in 2014-15, playing a key role in plunging some into financial crisis.
The report said that as well as the financial drain of using non-permanent workers, it is also a safety issue if there are major difficulties with finding enough contracted staff.
Researcher Edmund Stubbs said: “It is evident that a lack of staff – or at least of staff willing to enter some specialities – is currently leading to excessive spending on agency staff, locums and overseas recruitment, exhausting financial resources that could be better used in training and employing full-time staff.
“If numbers training for medical careers were to be substantially increased, personnel might be encouraged to embark on careers in specialities such as A&E which are currently experiencing difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff.
“Competition might also be engendered between staff to obtain positions in currently unpopular or remote regions.
“At present, staff shortages in less desirable specialities are met by employing overseas-trained, locum and agency staff at great expense and with a possible risk of reduced care quality and patient safety. A larger dependable permanent staff pool would result in enhanced workforce stability and patient safety.”
Nurses and midwives trained abroad make up around 10 per cent of the total workforce, according to the report.
Hospitals in Yorkshire have launched recruitment drives around the world including Spain, Portugal, Romania, Poland, Italy Greece, India and the Philippines.