Massive increase in payments to temporary doctors

Lancaster Royal Infirmary Hospital. Accident and Emergency.
Lancaster Royal Infirmary Hospital. Accident and Emergency.

Payments to temporary or “locum” doctors working in the A&E unit at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary has risen sharply over the past four years.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) said that difficulties in recruiting full time staff had led to the increase in the employment of temporary staff.

Figures show that in 2009/10, the trust spent £196,326 on locum doctors, which rose sharply to £1,077,459 in 2010/11 for its A&E units in Lancaster and Barrow-In-Furness.

The payments had been reduced to 793,643 in 2012/13.

The figures were released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Labour Party to hospital trusts in England and Wales.

The data showed £83.3m was spent last year, up from £52m in 2009/10.

Employing locum doctors can cost £1,500 a shift, four times as much as filling a shift with permanent staff.

David Wilkinson, director of workforce and organisational development for UHMBT, said: “Like many trusts, UHMBT has experienced difficulties in recruiting sufficient numbers of senior medical staff in particular specialties due to long-standing workforce supply shortages at national (and even international) levels.

“We have developed a range of strategic interventions to support the ongoing recruitment of permanent doctors, in order to improve the quality of service provided to our patients and to reduce reliance on premium-cost locum doctors.

“Locum doctors are an essential element in our workforce plan, as they are necessary to provide continuity of care to our patients caused through vacancies and/or sickness absence.

“Whilst we will never eliminate this type of spending completely, we will continue to work hard to ensure that we minimise their use.”