The Department of Health and Social Care is to tackle its reliance on bank and expensive agency nursing staff.
The worldwide shortage of nurses and the intense competition to recruit them, means attracting nurses to the Isle of Man is a significant challenge. As a result, many vital nursing roles are often vacant, leaving no choice but to fill them with either on-Island bank nurses, or expensive agency nurses whose salaries can be as much as three times higher.
The plan will see nursing and healthcare assistant staff based on Ward 5 at Noble’s Hospital – a medical ward primarily for older people – redistributed throughout the hospital’s remaining medical wards, aligning their skill-mix and experience to the 13 existing vacancies. Ward 5 will become the new home for the Island’s chemotherapy service, which will relocate from Ward 20, which is separate to the main hospital building.
This is a significant step in addressing nurse recruitment difficulties in the Isle of Man. Having permanent staff in post will ensure better continuity of care for patients and better team working and support for staff on wards. The move is anticipated to generate a saving of as much as £480,000 a year with the reduction in bank and agency salaries. This builds on other initiatives, such as the recent introduction of ‘back to the floor’ for senior nurses, which itself has reduced the need for bank and agency staff with the potential saving of £370,000 a year.
There will remain some vacancies in specialist nursing areas – such as children’s nursing – where different skills and experience are required. Overall, however, the reconfiguration of services is anticipated to mean a surplus of nurses and healthcare assistants across Noble’s Hospital’s medical wards. Nurses and healthcare assistants at Noble’s Hospital will be able to apply to transfer to Ramsey and District Cottage Hospital, where additional nurses and healthcare assistants will be required as part of plans to open an additional 10 beds for an expanded step-up step-down service.
Minister for Health and Social Care, Kate Beecroft MHK, welcomed the move: “The ongoing recruitment difficulties for nurses, doctors and other care professionals is a result of worldwide shortages and a fiercely competitive marketplace. The absolutely essential nature of nurses means that frontline services would not operate if these posts were left unfilled. To keep services running the Department has little choice but to fill roles with agency and locum staff where recruitment is proving difficult.
“This approach, whilst necessary, is hugely expensive, as these staff attract high rates of pay given their flexibility and the temporary nature of their placements. Indeed, locum and agency costs account for the majority of the DHSC’s overspend in the last two financial years. Had these costs not been incurred the DHSC would likely not have required approval for supplementary funding from Tynwald.
“There is still work to do, but this is a step in the right direction and will mean the majority of medical ward nursing posts are filled for the first time in many years. That is better for patients, better for staff and better for the health service’s finances.”