September 19: NHS must get a grip of spiralling agency bills

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Money should be spent on recruiting and retaining permanent staff.

THE soaring cost of agency staff being employed by NHS trusts in Yorkshire is a matter of the most serious concern and needs to be addressed urgently.

A figure of £113m that represents an increase of a third spent with outside

agencies in a year is staggering, and if allowed to go on rising at this rate is rapidly going to prove unsustainable.

It is beyond dispute that the NHS is facing severe financial difficulties, a fact acknowledged by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. A population that is increasing, ageing and living longer can only ratchet up the pressures on the service.

Yet the cycle of ever-increasing reliance on agency doctors and nurses to plug gaps must be broken, as much for the welfare of patients as well as for the financial position of trusts. A lack of continuity of care, or inadequately-briefed staff, is not in the best interests of those who need to be admitted to hospital.

The agencies who are making a handsome living out of the NHS’s difficulties do, of course, bear a significant burden of responsibility for the spiralling bills.

There is an unpleasant whiff of profiteering about some of the charges that is all the more unsavoury for them being demanded from a service that does its utmost to help often desperately ill people.

Ultimately, though, it must be the responsibility of the NHS trusts to get a grip on these costs and bring them under control. There can sometimes be an air of permanent crisis about NHS management, and these figures suggest that short-term thinking is leading trusts to reach out to the agencies as a first resort.

What is needed is better workplace planning with the aim of spending the

money currently going to agencies on recruiting and retaining staff.

Corbyn warning

Clock ticking on leader

JEREMY Corbyn may reflect today on the truth of the dictum by his illustrious predecessor Harold Wilson that a week is a long time in politics.

His first seven days as Labour leader have, at times, been torrid as he was

buffeted by criticism over his choice of shadow chancellor, the lack of women in senior roles on his frontbench team and his dreadfully misjudged refusal to sing the National Anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial service.

Mr Corbyn ends his first week with a warning from Rotherham MP Sarah Champion that he would do well to heed. Her assessment that he has six months to settle the party is well-judged.

Whatever misgivings there are within the Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr Corbyn has an unassailable mandate from the rank-and-file which guarantees him a honeymoon period in which any stumbles are forgiven and he can count on support.

But as Ms Champion foresees, should he still be stumbling next spring, that support will begin to crumble and his position will be precarious.

Besides heeding her assessment, Mr Corbyn should also pay close attention to the advice that the respected former Chancellor, Alistair Darling, offered yesterday that he must clearly define what he and Labour under his leadership stand for.

The point goes to the heart of what has quickly become apparent – that the electorate knows what Mr Corbyn opposes, but not what he supports. For his own sake, and that of his party, he should address this without delay.

England expects

All eyes on Rugby World Cup

THE spectacular opening of the Rugby World Cup last night sounded a thrilling fanfare for a glorious sporting extravaganza that will grip the nation for the next six weeks.

Few things bring people together more joyously than a great tournament full of courage and excitement. This is the biggest Rugby World Cup ever staged, and Britain’s hosting of it will be seen by vast television audience worldwide, estimated at 420 million people.

Rightly so, Yorkshire plays its part next weekend when Elland Road in Leeds hosts the matches between Scotland and the United States, and Italy and Canada, when our county will give them all a warm and tumultuous welcome.

But all eyes are, of course, on England. They may not be favourites, but there is a tremendous will and hope across the land that Stuart Lancaster’s men can repeat the triumph of 2003 which saw such national euphoria. Swing low, and reach for glory.