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Readers’ panel: Was Matt Hancock right to say use of agency staff is ‘demoralising’?

The health secretary vowed to tackle agency spend. Nursing Standard readers have their say

The health secretary vowed to tackle agency spend. Nursing Standard readers have their say

Picture: Alamy

Drew Payne is a community staff nurse in north London

I’ve worked with agency nurses and have also been one, and the picture Matt Hancock paints is so unreal it is almost laughable. The team I work in couldn’t survive without agency nurses – half our posts are empty, so not having agency staff would be far more demoralising. If Mr Hancock wants to cut the agency bill, how about recruiting more nurses and giving existing nurses a decent pay rise? But I guess sound bites are easier and cheaper than sorting out the real problems in the NHS.

Georgina Clayton is a nursing student in Southampton 

Mr Hancock’s comments demonstrate a huge lack of understanding of the reality of working on the front line of the NHS, and it his words which I find demoralising. Instead of breaking down barriers and unifying staff, he is reinforcing an isolating culture which can lead to bullying. The government has failed to address the short-staffing crisis. We should be praising agency nurses who come onto wards to fill gaps and take on the responsibility of providing safe patient care.

Debbie Ayodele is a mental health charge nurse in London

It is dangerous to bash agency nurses, who fill gaps in the rota and support safe staffing in the NHS. Evidence shows that having permanent nursing staff is a key factor in patient safety, so using agency staff may not be ideal, but the reality is that there are many unfilled nursing posts in the NHS. There is a serious crisis in nurse recruitment and not enough is being done to tackle this. Mr Hancock’s frustrations should be directed at his government, not agency nurses.

Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse and PhD student in Nottingham

Mr Hancock’s comments about agency nurses reek of ‘divide and conquer’. This looks like yet another attempt to destroy the NHS by creating discord among NHS workers. Blaming much-needed agency nurses for the problems of an underfunded service is deplorable. The government should instead be committing to the essentially socialist values on which the NHS was founded – adequately funding services, supporting staff to deliver care and bringing back the bursary to encourage new recruits into the profession.

Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

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