ROYAL Bolton Hospital spent a total of almost £9 million on employing temporary staff last year

The bill was mostly made up of the cost paying agency nurses and doctors.

But the Trust insists that it is cutting down on the cost of agency workers and spent £1.7 million less on them than the previous year.

Figures revealed by Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, following a Freedom of Information request, show that the biggest cost in the financial year 2018/19 was doctors.

A total of £3,979,773 was spent on temporary doctors of all specialisms.

Ensuring there were enough general nurses to staff the wards was also a problem, with the trust spending £3,499,811 on agency nurses and a further £43,009 on theatre nurses to ensure operations could go ahead.

Other costs included £59,829 for temporary healthcare assistants, £833,980 on other health professionals and health science services and £575,104 on non-clinical and non-medical staff.

James Mawrey, Director of Workforce at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said: “To maintain quality and safety, we do use agency staff when required.

"However the Trust reduced agency expenditure by £1.7m in the financial year 2018/19 when compared to 2017/18, as a result of our continuous efforts to recruit clinical staff.

“We are planning to reduce this further in this financial year, and thanks to the efforts of our staff and managers, agency spending is currently under that forecast.

"This trend is expected to continue for the remainder of the financial year.”

In 2018/19 the Trust spent 3.6 percent of its total pay bill on agency workers.

"The average for Trusts in Greater Manchester is 3.8 per cent and the national NHS average is 5.5 per cent.

Last year the financial watchdog, NHS Improvement, expressed concern that, nationally, hospital and ambulance service trusts were wasting a total of £480 million on using private agencies to fill temporary vacancies.

Such staff cost, on average, 20 per cent more than those from the NHS’s own ‘staff banks’ — pools of workers who are already NHS employees and agree to work flexible shifts — despite doing the same job.

Since a cap was introduced on costs in 2015, the NHS has cut spending on agency workers by more than £1.2bn. NHS providers cannot spend more than 55 per cent above the basic rate for a staff member on an agency worker.

But NHS Improvement says more can be done and agency staff should only be used as a last resort.

Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement stated: “Trusts have made fantastic progress in reducing spending on expensive private agency staff.

"These savings mean more money for other vital NHS services and ensure every penny the NHS spends counts. But there is further progress to be made.

"Bank staff cost the NHS less than agency staff and could improve a patient’s continuity of care. That is why we want trusts to take a bank first approach, and only use agency staff as a last resort.

“Temporary agency workers play an important role in ensuring staffing numbers remain at a level that provides the best possible care for patients and gives them the opportunity to work flexibly. But an over-reliance on high cost private agencies when there are other options available is not good for patients or for the NHS’s finances.”

The NHS Improvement report found that just five doctors in the country were costing the NHS £2million a year, with one agency charging a health service £480 an hour for a consultant.