HOSPITAL bosses have vowed to eradicate unnecessary spending on costly agency nursing staff.

After nursing costs at acute hospitals in Worcestershire rocketed to a two-year high of £7.3 million in January, total spend dipped slightly to just over £7.2m last month.

However, a massive £416,000 was shelled out on expensive agency nurses – which often cost three or four times as much as NHS equivalents – during February, the highest level since July and al-most £60,000 up on the previous month.

Chris Tidman, director of resources at the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, said the rocketing costs were due to pressures being placed on hospital wards by the severe winter weather and outbreaks of norovirus with emergency admissions up more than seven per cent year-on-year.

But he said it was vital that the trust, which runs the Worcestershire Royal, Redditch’s Alexandra and Kidderminster hospitals, is better prepared to avoid having to pay through the nose for temporary cover.

“The current situation with temporary nursing staff is 90 per cent driven by the demand on our system and additional capacity that we have had to put into acute wards,” he said.

“Primarily what we are seeing here in January and February is simply increased pressure on our services.

“In terms of what we can do to address it, it comes back to having a clearer and much more aligned emergency plan in place for next year so that we can ensure that we are not left relying on short-term measures.

“It is about financial and operational lessons and next year we will have that capacity planned.”

John Burbeck, the trust’s deputy chairman, said: “We have learned some more lessons this year and will be better prepared next year to minimise the waste of having to put short-term staff in place.”