TROUBLED Basildon Hospital spent an eye-watering £10.2million on temporary staff last year, despite hundreds of posts sitting vacant.

The Echo has learned the trust almost doubled the amount it spent on agency staff in the last financial year.

In comparison, bosses shelled out £6.5million on stop-gap employees in 2011/12.

The huge sums emerged as it was revealed the hospital had the equivalent of 262 full-time posts vacant just last week.

The hospital employed 215 agency staff during the last financial year.

Health campaigners have questioned why more permanent recruits are not employed. It has also emerged the hospital spent £792,000 last year getting rid of just 20 employees, one of whom was earning up to £100,000.

Dan Chapple, who founded the Basildon branch of Cure the NHS after growing concerns about his mother’s care, said: “I know agency staff are sometimes a necessary evil, but why don’t they employ full-time staff?

Throughout our investigations we found there was no consistency in care, with employees working with different people from week to week.

“There is no cohesion with agency staff and they are not cost-effective, either. It’s a dreadful idea.”

Bosses at the trust claimed the figures could be explained by the trust’s drive to employ more people last year, as well as extra staff to cover absence and sickness.

Of the £10million, £2.9million was spent on nursing staff to plug gaps. Bosses have since beefed up their recruitment.

They cast their net to Spain and the Philippines, with 200 extra nurses permanently brought in to help during the busy winter period.

A total of 4,029 permanent staff were employed at the hospital, at a total cost of £140million.

A hospital spokesman said: “Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust made a conscious decision to invest more in increasing the number of nursing and clinical staff, to improve the standard of care it delivers to patients.

“This includes the creation of 200 additional nursing posts, and additional consultants.

“These vacancies have, in the short term, been filled by agency staff, to ensure patients benefit immediately.

“The trust has now recruited permanent staff to the majority of these additional posts, and these staff are joining the hospital on a daily basis.

“As a result, the trust is seeing a month-on- month reduction in its agency spend.”