York Hospital has denied seeking out agency staff to cross the picket line after a recruiter offered nurses £40 per hour to work during the strike.
Nurses are “urgently required” to work at the hospital on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the email from an agency which provides workers to the NHS.
Pat McCullen, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary, said on social media that the offer was “quite unbelievable” and showed a “lack of respect” for the NHS’s own staff.
She added: “Shocking to say the least. Perhaps paying their own nursing staff this rate would have resulted in them being able to afford to live.”
A rate of £40 per hour is well over double what an average nurse would make in an hour.
In July of last year, ministers brought in a controversial law allowing for the hire of agency workers to cover industrial action to stop essential services being disrupted.
The RCN condemned the law change at the time, saying it was designed to make strike action ineffective.
York Hospital said it has been working with union representatives to ensure “plans are in place to maintain safe care for patients” during this week’s strikes.
Alison Leary, a professor of healthcare and workforce modelling at London South Bank University, was sent the agency email.
It said nurses covering strike shifts would be eligible for “fast track compliance” and would only need five documents to start work.
Typically, the process of ‘on-boarding’ a nurse to start work requires more paperwork and can take several months.
Prof Leary expressed concern about how quickly the usual requirements appeared to have been dropped.
The advert read: “Due to staff strikes and to avoid cancellation of surgeries, RGN’s (registered general nurses) are urgently required for LD’s (long days) tomorrow and Thursday at York Hospital in the Day Surgery Unit.
“Open to substantive and bank staff, and the rate will be £40/hr Umbrella/Limited rate (£35 PAYE rate). “
A spokesperson for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Like many NHS trusts we have partnerships with a number of independent sector healthcare providers who are supporting us to recover our backlogs.
“The trust has not, either directly through our own bank or indirectly through an agency or independent provider, sought additional agency staff to cover the strikes.
“The services we are continuing to run have been agreed with the RCN as part of our strike planning.”
Figures from the BBC show spending on agency staff in the NHS rose 20 per cent last year to hit £3 billion in England.