Whittington Hospital sets out cost-saving plan for £27million agency staff bill

Bosses at the Whittington Hospital have set out cost-saving measures after it was revealed £27million has been spent on agency staff in one year.

During a meeting of the hospital trust’s board last week, chief executive Dr Yi Mien Koh said the hospital was using too many agencies and called for a “robust HR policy”.

Figures show £13m was spent on agency staff and £14m on “bank” staff, a pool of medical practitioners called to work at the hospital when needed.

Finance chief Richard Martin told the meeting the hospital is experiencing cash flow problems and is £6.4m behind its capital improvement programme target.

He said: “Cash flow is an increasing problem and it’s become quite serious this month because of the inability of the clinical commissioning groups to pay us.”

He said the delay in receiving funding for services may be down to the handover from primary care trusts to GP clinical commissioning groups in April.

He added: “All in all this adds up to a likely case scenario that we will struggle with our target this year.”

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Top of a list of cost-saving initiatives was a review of all temporary staffing.

Other measures include changing procurement arrangements to make suppliers tender for contracts and stopping any non-essential spending.

Mr Martin also said there was uncertainty over the sale of hospital estates, fuelling speculation over unpopular plans to sell-off buildings to raise cash as part of the Whittington’s application to become a foundation trust.

Non-executive director Paul Lowenberg said it was vital that the hospital gets control of staff costs which will show whether it is capable of running as an independent organisation.

A spokeswoman for the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, said: “The trust has reduced the spending on agency staff in nursing over the past 12 months.

“We have recently reviewed our use of agency and bank staff across the organisation and are introducing immediate measures to reduce the high level of agency spend.”

She added: “In the future, we will be discussing with procurement the option of using a few preferred agencies to ensure we get the best possible rates.”

Asked why a competitive tendering process was not already in place to save costs, she said: “All public sector organisations must follow EU procurement regulations.

“As a trust, we have our own rules regarding competition when buying goods and services which are lower than the EU threshold.

“While there are circumstances where competition may not be appropriate, staff have been asked to be mindful to secure value for money wherever possible.”