Northern Ireland Health Trusts spend more than £320m on agency staff in 12 months

Northern Ireland's Health Trusts are under growing pressure to reduce the amount they spend on agency staff, after expenditure rose by 13% in a year - to over £320million. 

The cost has become untenable and Trust's have been told by the Department of Health to make £55m of savings this year.

Pandemic pressures and its aftermath saw agency expenditure rise rapidly.

Figures obtained by UTV show that more than £320m was paid to health agencies in 2021/22.

The previous year that spend was over £282m. The greatest expenditure was nursing and midwifery.

In 2021 to 2022 almost £140m was paid out to agencies. That was up from £110m the year before. 

For medical and dental £102m was paid - it was £98m the previous year. 

The payments for the past 12 months are not yet available, but it is unlikely they will have decreased, given the pressure our hospitals have been under. 

In a statement the Department of Health said that agency expenditure has been rising rapidly and the health service is facing a period of unprecedented budgetary pressures. 

The department added: "Reducing agency spend is the right thing to do, and not just for cost reasons. Staff told us that excessive agency use is unfair and impacts on morale."

The department also said that "consistent clinical teams enhance patient safety".

Former head of the Health and Social Care Board John Compton said: "The main concern for Trusts nowadays will be cash control because they are living in a constrained budget and there are only limited places where they can go to control cash and one of them is the expenditure on agencies."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.