OXFORD’S hospitals are spending more on bank and agency staff less than a year after the NHS trust announced plans to cut the bill.

In the first quarter of 2012, the Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) Trust spent £5.2m on bank and agency staff – £700,000 more than the same period last year.

It comes at a time when the trust faces making £160m of cuts over the next four years and a year after it said it planned to reduce the number of costly bank and agency staff it used in a bid to cut down costs.

By the end of June 2012, expenditure on bank and agency staff, including overtime, was 6.2 per cent of total pay spend across the John Radcliffe, Churchill, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Horton hospitals.

The trust said it was having to rely on bank staff because vacancies were running higher than expected.

It said: “This position reflects that some areas are experiencing demand for services above the agreed contract with the PCT and also that some divisional schemes have not yet started to fully deliver the planned savings.

It added: “The trust is currently running with a vacancy rate of eight per cent. This would ordinarily be expected to be closer to five per cent.”

A recruitment programme is under way to cut the use of bank and agency staff.

The £160m of savings – about five per cent of the OUH total budget – are being made as part of a Government drive to slash £20bn from the cost of the NHS.

OUH chief executive Sir Jonathan Michael said the trust was faced with £49m worth of savings over the next year alone.

Last year the trust faced savings of about £52m and had threatened to cut 670 full-time posts.

But Sir Jonathan said the bed-blocking crisis, which is seeing well patients staying in hospital longer, meant the trust could not make losses of that scale, because it had to keep an extra 120 beds open to deal with demand.