Has locum spending at your hospital risen? Cost of paying temporary doctors at accident and emergency is up in the East
14:41 14 January 2014
Spending on temporary emergency doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hosptial in King’s Lynn has risen almost 30pc since 2011 as hospitals struggle to find permanent staff, new figures reveal.
But the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital saw a 22pc fall in locum spending between 2010 and last year, with the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust seeing a 1pc fall in the same period, according to data obtained by the Labour Party.
Some of the regional picture emerged as data nationally revealed the cost of paying temporary doctors to work at accident and emergency units in England increased by 60pc in three years as hospitals struggle to find permanent staff.
Spending on locums was £83.3 million last year, a rise from £52 million in 2009-10.
A locum can earn £1,500 a shift, more than four times what it would cost to employ a permanent doctor in the same role. Doctors groups said the situation was “absurd” and damaged morale.
Dr Cliff Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said such spending was “unwise”.
“It is not an efficient way of spending NHS money and can be damaging for morale when doctors work alongside other, sometimes less qualified doctors, who are earning much more,” he told the BBC.
“But this has really been building for the past decade. There has been a lack of job planning and it is now very hard to attract doctors to this speciality.”
The figures were uncovered after Labour received data from 108 of the 145 hospital trusts it questioned under the Freedom of Information Act. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the increasing costs were linked to the Coalition’s “disastrous” reorganisation of the NHS.
The figures come as in health questions in the House of Commons today Norwich MP Chloe Smith said that she had constituents who had visited her MP surgery who were “frustrated by the brick walls that can sometimes seem to be there between different healthcare services in urgent and traumatic winter cases”.
But she claimed that in Norwich they had come together through the project aimed at raising A&E performance by improving all aspects of emergency care.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt praised Norfolk’s project aimed at raising A&E performance - “Operation Domino” - claiming it was breaking down the barriers by using his winter funding money.
Ms Smith said: “Different heallth services in Norwich have come together in Operation Domino to improve services in the face of demand. They have used winter funding money to run a new style of urgent care unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.” Mr Hunt, said: ““I do congratulate the health services in Norfolk for what they are doing and indeed in Norwich for what they are doing to break down those barriers and that is they key issue and is something I am working very carefully with the care services minister this year.
“To merge the system is a £4bn merger so that records can be shared across all the different systems to make sure there is a named accountable doctor for the entirety of people’s time outside hospital, and I hope that will make a different in Norwich, as elsewhere.”
He added: “In the short term a record £400m has been assigned to help the NHS through this winter, with £250m announced in August, much earlier than before. For the long term we are restoring the link between GPs and vulnerable older patients by bringing back named GPs for all over 75s. Something which was broken in 2004.”