Mental health trust spent record amount on agency staff

Michael Scott CEO of the Norfolk and Suffolk FoundationTrust answering questions on the findings in

Michael Scott CEO of the Norfolk and Suffolk FoundationTrust answering questions on the findings in Care Quality Commission report. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

A mental health trust which is aiming to make savings of £8.9million spent a record high of £2.4m on temporary staff last month, it has emerged.

But bosses at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust last night stressed the expenditure was necessary to ensure safe staffing levels across the two counties.

The organisation is currently undergoing a transition as it seeks to make major savings following a financial investigation by Monitor and being placed into special measures by the regulator.

Michael Scott, chief executive of the trust, claimed the high level of agency staff spend is due to a recruitment struggle, something he said is felt by other NHS organisations across the country.

He added: 'If it is a choice between safe staffing levels and the expense of bringing in agency nurses, we will always make the decision to bring in extra staff to keep our patients safe and to support our frontline teams.

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'Reducing agency spend is a top priority of our trust. We have held a safe staffing review in inpatient areas and have a clear recruitment strategy which has seen our trust make a £2.6million investment into recruiting more staff and we recently agreed an investment of £950,000 into the recruitment of additional community staff.'

Following the investigation by Monitor, which was launched in November, Norfolk and Suffolk agreed to try and make savings of £8.9m in this financial year.

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There is no overall savings target for the future, but it has previously been reported that it is expecting to make £36m in 'efficiency savings' over the next four years.

During a meeting of the trust's board of directors in Ipswich yesterday, bosses spoke of the need to make improvements to both its finances and its performance.

Mr Scott has said the number of vacancies has now reduced following the recruitment of more than 240 clinical staff, including six new doctors.

He added: 'To attract and retain high quality staff we need to be creative and have something extra to offer. The launch of our Nursing Academy at the end of last year aims to attract nursing recruits from outside of the region and to support newly-qualified staff in becoming clinical leaders of the future.

'We are also doing things to reduce vacancies for mental health doctors and have created a working group within our Workforce Development team, co-led by our medical director, to review all vacancies of this type and look at getting this number down.'

Alison Armstrong, director of operations in Suffolk, added: 'We have to get the quality right because for me, quality services provide efficiencies – and that is what I am aiming to do.'

What do you think about mental health care in Norfolk? Email our health correspondent at

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