Two-thirds of care operators have reduced or maintained their agency staff costs, research by Christie & Co has found.

Whilst agency usage has fallen as providers look to recruit and maintain full-time workers, according to the advisor’s Adult Social Care 2018 report, expenditure has slightly risen, indicating agency workers are becoming more expensive.

Its survey found that in elderly care average agency hours of total staff hours fell to 6.5% this year, from 7.2% in 2017. However, average agency costs as a percentage of staff expenditure was 10%, up from 9.7% last year.

In specialist care average agency hours of total staff hours grew to 5.3%, from 4.6% in 2017, while agency costs as a percentage of staff expense fell slightly to 8.4%, down from 8.7% last year.

The survey sample, which included leading operators and key regional providers, covered more than 95,000 beds in elderly care (38% of the total supply) and nearly 5,200 beds (16%) in specialist care.

As a percentage of revenue, employee costs in elderly care this year was 61.5%, up from 59.5% in 2017, while in specialist care it was 58.8%, slightly up from 58.3% in 2017.

Average fee rate rises from April 2018 for local authorities in England equated to 3.4% (2017: 3.9%) for residential and 3.5% (2017: 4.1%) for nursing care. The report said: ‘There is an ongoing regional disparity with fees in the North and Midlands flagging behind London and the South.’

In Wales fee increases averaged 3.5% for residential and nursing care, with significant variations by local authority and type of care. In Scotland uplifts were 3.4%.