A SHORTAGE of trained staff meant the Great Western Hospitals Trust had to spend nearly £15m on temporary workers last year, an increase of 38 per cent over 2015/16.

On nursing staff alone, £8.2m was spent, 73 per cent higher than in the previous year, and another £3.7m was forked out on medical and dental staff.

The trust put the increases down to a national shortage of healthcare professionals, as well as taking over the running of Swindon Borough Council’s SEQOL services.

A spokesman for the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Spend on agency staff has increased over the last year due to demand for hospital services continuing to grow, and the trust becoming the new provider of community healthcare services across Swindon.”

“While there remains a national shortage of skilled healthcare professionals, the use of agency staff to cover vacancies and unplanned absences at short notice enables our busy and hard-working teams to continue providing patients with the safe, high-quality care they need.”

In addition to the money spent on nurses and doctors, another £1.4m was spent on temporary health professionals and scientific staff, and £1.3m on senior management and administrative staff.

In total, temporary staff cost the trust £14.7m in 2016/17, up from £10.7m in the previous year.

An inspection of the hospital’s emergency department, carried out by the CQC in October last year, found that there was a heavy reliance on temporary staff, and highlighted concerns about their competence.

They expressed concern that the department was unable to consistently meet defined staff to patient ratios at times of overcrowding, and that there were concerns about a lack of senior and experienced staff.

The news comes as a survey of members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) across the South West found that patient care is being compromised due to a shortage of nurses.

Of the members of nursing staff questioned in the region, over half felt that patient care had been compromised on their last shift, with the most common reasons given being that there were not enough nurses or health care support workers.

Sarah Zanoni, the acting regional director for the RCN South West region, said: “Yet again the RCN are required to highlight the problems our members are facing.

“It is completely unacceptable that so many of our members reported that their last shift was short staffed. It is not safe for patients and it is not safe for staff.

“NHS trusts continue to struggle to recruit and retain vital nursing staff.

“Nurses are leaving the profession because of ever increasing stress and feeling undervalued.

“They have seen their salaries drop by 14 per cent in real terms.”

Today Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that five thousand extra trainee nurses places will be created next year to give a boost to the number of home-grown NHS staff as Britain leaves the EU.

Mr Hunt pledged to deliver the largest increase in training “in the history of the NHS” and boost numbers by a quarter.