MORE and more public cash is being used up by paying temporary staff and agency fees in the Borders.

Over the past three full financial years both NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council have continued to throw money at agency manpower.

The local authority's outlay on funding temporary cover has gone from £1.39 million in 2014/15 up to £1.58 million the following year, and to £1.89 million for 2016/17.

The £5 million bill for the three years covers everything from social workers, IT specialists and care staff to waste operatives, PR people and accountants - as well as costly agency fees for supplying the temps.

A local authority spokesman told us: “Scottish Borders Council engage agency staff to cover peaks in work and unplanned absence as it is more economical to use agency staff in these circumstances."

During the same three year period NHS Borders has splashed out almost £12 million on temporary staff hired through agencies.

2014/15s figure of £2.98 million rose to £3.7 million the following year, and during 2016/17 had climbed again to £5.07 million.

NHS Borders has been taking steps to reduce its agency spend each year.

And progress has been made with the arrival of additional junior doctors last summer.

A number of specialist consultants have also been recruited this year reducing the need for further agency cover.

A spokeswoman for NHS Borders explained: "There is a requirement to fill rotas and make sure staffing levels are adequate and care is appropriate - when we have these vacancies it creates locum or agency cost.

"During 2017 we successfully recruited a number of consultants including Consultant Anaesthetists, Consultant Psychiatrists, a Consultant General Surgeon, a Consultant Radiologist and Consultant Physicians in Gastroenterology and Stroke Medicine.

"All of these vacancies are specialties for which there is a shortage of qualified consultants and the services were previously sustained by a reliance on agency doctors.

"In addition last year - until August - we experienced a high number of gaps in training grade doctor rotations recruited through the Scottish Medical Training System.

"The allocation of training doctor numbers to NHS Borders was much more favourable in the August rotation and as result there is no further long term reliance on agency doctors to maintain junior doctor rotas."

All health boards in Scotland have been set a target on reducing agency doctor costs by 25 per cent during 2017/18 - with NHS Borders already achieving the savings, and bosses are currently only searching for three new doctors to fill vacancies.

But there are still problems filling other roles within the wards with 20 nursing jobs being advertised just now.

While efforts are being made to reduce temping costs, one local employment agency believes much more could be done.

Balfour Wilson Recruitment has been helping dozens of local firms fill permanent vacancies since forming last year.

And, according to the Jedburgh-based agency, its offers of help to either the local authority or NHS Borders to find suitable staff has to date, been unsuccessful.

Director Moira Wilson told us: "We have enjoyed an extremely successful first year helping many companies find the right person for the job.

"Between our team we've helped over 2,000 people find work in the Scottish Borders during our careers and would love to help either Scottish Borders Council or NHS Borders to find people to fill permanent positions.

"Unfortunately, we have been unable to replicate this success with either of the largest employers in the area."

The vast majority of agencies used by both NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council, for filling either temporary or permanent vacancies, are based in the central belt or south of the border.

Caley Balfour from Balfour Wilson added: "Using temporary staff is seen as a quick fix and costs the authorities a great deal more than what it would cost to fill positions with permanent staff.

"We are based in the Borders and have a track record in attracting people to come and work here."

Scottish Borders Council uses many online job sites, as well as its own website, to advertise vacancies.

And, it claims, only uses recruitment agencies to fill permanent positions in exceptional cases.

The spokesman added: "“The council does not usually engage agencies to carry out recruitment processes for permanent staff on its behalf.”

NHS Borders also uses online recruitment sites as well as its own website to advertise permanent vacancies.

But bosses are always looking for new ways to bring in staff.

The spokeswoman added: “It would be great to be able to use local agencies to make it easier for us to do this we would encourage them to ensure they are registered with the Care Inspectorate and that they are included in the agreed national framework which is in place for all NHS Scotland boards.”

NHS Borders is also holding a Nursing Recruitment day on Friday, February 16.