NURSES were livid to find hospital staff brought all the way from Bristol were on as much as three times their rate of pay!

Over Easter an extra ward had to be opened at Wigan Infirmary and cover was brought in from a Bristol-based agency.

Nurses contracted by the agency received £26 per hour and 15p per mile expenses while the local contingent got £11 an hour Easter rate.

Ian Hargreaves, regional director of The Royal College of Nursing, told The Journal:"They didn't even ask the staff who were on holiday if they wanted to work.

"We are running with a shortage of trained staff and a high increase of medical admissions meant an extra ward had to be opened up.

"It's deplorable that the Trust will fork out £26 an hour for outside agency staff but won't pay their own staff who would be willing to work for a proper rate."

Local nurses were amazed to find agency staff brought in included people from Bristol who they claim were paid £26 per hour plus 15p per mile travelling expenses.

One Bristol nurse who worked 7.30am-9pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday told others she would earn £900.

The Trust paid the agency £41.45 per nurse, per hour. The normal rate of pay for Grade D nurses is £7.26 per hour which, for them, was topped-up to £11 for Easter working.

Medical emergency admissions were up 15 per cent on same period last year. The rush meant all non-urgent operations had to be cancelled because surgical beds were occupied by medical emergencies.

An NHS Trust spokesman said they had gone to the agency because they had run out of all other recognised systems and they needed extra staff.

The spokesman said:"We had to go to the agency and they do charge huge fees.

"There was a massive demand for emergency medical beds over the Easter weekend that meant wards which were normally shut over a bank holiday weekend had to be opened.

"These wards needed staffing. We used up all the normal arrangements for staffing the wards - infirmary and 'bank' staff - so we had to go to the agency.

"The Trust does try to minimise the use of agency staff. One way of reducing using agency nurses is to increase the number of permanent staff."

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