Wales politics

NHS agency nurse spending up 80% in one year, figures show

Image caption The Welsh Liberal Democrats want minimum nurse levels enshrined in law

Spending by the Welsh NHS on agency nurses increased by 80% in a single year, new figures have shown.

Spending rose from £12.8m in 2013 to £23m in 2014, according to statistics obtained by the Liberal Democrats.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said nurse numbers could be seen as an "easy target" for cuts but this could leave the NHS having to plug the gap later as staff levels were too low.

Welsh ministers said they were "taking action to recruit and retrain nurses".

A total of more than £60m was spent on agency nursing staff over four years.

The Liberal Democrats have introduced a Welsh bill to set minimum nurse levels on hospital wards.

The information on agency nursing staff between 2011 and 2014, obtained from local health boards using the Freedom of Information Act, includes health care assistants, nursing auxiliaries and nursing assistants.

A Welsh government spokesman said the agency nurse spend was small considering £6bn was invested in the Welsh NHS every year.

But he added health boards should scrutinise spending and "take action to recruit".

"We are competing in a global market for nurses and there are recruitment pressures across the UK, not just in Wales," the spokesman added.

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