AGENCY staff could cost Southend Hospital almost £10million by the end of the financial year, bosses have warned.

Hospital bosses had estimated spending £6.6million by the end of March 2014 on temps, but that figure could now reach £9.79million.

The hospital in Prittlewell Chase has now set-up a vacancy panel to recruit staff, created an overseas recruitment plan for nurses and started a European recruitment drive for doctors.

The sheer scale of the costs involved with agency staff were highlighted in October when the hospital spent a whopping £950,000 on temps.

In a report about the problem to hospital bosses, Sandra Le Blanc, director of human resources, said: “Despite the interventions, agency spend is increasing, and if it continues at the current rate the year end total will be £9.79million.” The hospital spent £6.03million on agency staff in 2010/11 and £6.45million in 2012/13.

Robert Oxley, campaign director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, fears the costs of agency staff are spiralling out of control.

He said: “This is a huge amount of money to spend on temporary staff at a time when every penny of the budget needs to be focussed on the front line.

“This bill cannot be allowed to spiral out of control anymore, managers must reduce it without delay.”

The Royal College of Nursing has urged hospital trusts to get a “better hold” on their reliance on agency staff to stop money ”being squandered”.

A spokesman said said: “Trusts need to better manage peaks and troughs of demand, make their workplaces attractive for permanent staff, and ensure there are flexible working arrangements available. Consistently paying agencies huge sums of money to fill the gaps is not acceptable.”

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has called on the Government to help solve the crisis of temps.

A spokesman said: “Locums have always been an integral part of the NHS workforce as like any other organisation there will be periods of high demand or staff absences that will require support from staff who can provide temporary cover.

“However it can be more expensive to employ locums than permanent staff, which results in additional costs for an NHS that is already struggling with declining budgets.

“The Government must address the long term staff shortages experienced by many key specialties including consultant posts in A&E and geriatric medicine.”

Southend Hospital now has a weekly vacancy scrutiny panel, which in October approved the need for 203 full time permanent posts.

It has launched recruitment drives for nurses and doctors overseas and also intends to extend the notice period for higher band nurses to two months to allow longer for recruitment.

The report added: “Additional nursing staff will address the inpatient ward skill mix.

“A recruitment campaign for doctors has commenced with four out of eight medical staff roles in emergency services filled as a result of the overseas recruitment campaign.

“We have also recruited a fixed term contract in anaesthetics to cover a specialty trainee post.“ Basildon Hospital spent £10.2million on temps in the last financial year, up from £6.5million in 2011/12.