The need for agency staff has contributed to Crewe's Leighton Hospital spending almost £2 million more on pay than they expected in a matter of months.
The figures were revealed at a meeting of Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which also runs Victoria Infirmary in Northwich and Elmhurst in Winsford.
Between April and November, the trust spent £115.8 million on pay – £1.8 million more than it had planned to do so.
A report on the issue suggested that agency spend was a major contributor – and that there is a ‘high risk’ that the trust could breach a £5.7 million cap on agency spend in 2018-19.
Dr Paul Dodds, medical director and deputy chief executive, told the board that trust faces challenges in filling vacant posts – but work is taking place to cut agency spend.
He said: “Sometimes we get no applications, sometimes we will get one application and then they withdraw.
“I just want to assure the board that it is not for the want of trying. We are not sat here twiddling our thumbs.”
The report said that Mid Cheshire Hospitals overspent on agency staff alone by £687,000 between April and November 2018.
NHS regulators are clamping down on the use of ‘locum’ agency staff, who cost hospital trusts on average 20 per cent more than ‘bank staff’ – doctors and nurses who work at hospitals on a flexible basis.
A report issued at Monday’s board meeting said agency nurses were needed to cover Leighton’s escalation wards in the summer, while the trust also expects to employ high-cost agency doctors in the winter months.
Heather Barnett, director of workforce and organisational development, told the board work is under way to reduce the reliance on agency nurses – including a recruitment drive, additional training opportunities, and moving existing staff to other departments.
“There are some positive things happening to try and reduce that agency spend,” she added.