A&E locum spending soars by 60% amid 'recruitment crisis'

Jan 14, 2014

Intense work, anti-social hours and low pay putting junior doctors off accident and emergency units

UNDERSTAFFED A&E departments spent more than £83m on locum doctors last year, marking a 60 per cent rise over the last three years. 

The figures, obtained by the Labour Party under the Freedom of Information Act, have been described by doctors as a waste of vital NHS funds.

Temporary staff are being employed to cover as many as one in six junior posts, according to data received from 108 trusts, three-quarters of those that run A&E units. The figures show that spending on locum doctors has increased from £52m in 2009-10 to £83.3m last year.

A&E is in "the grip of a recruitment crisis", says the Daily Mail, with most junior doctors put off by the intense work, anti-social hours and low pay.

Hospitals are having to rely on increasingly expensive locums who, according to the paper, tend to be "less competent, more inexperienced and prone to mistakes as they are unfamiliar with equipment".

Employing a locum doctor can cost up to £1,500 a shift, four times as much as filling a shift with permanent staff, reports the BBC.

The College of Emergency Medicine has been drawing up plans to attract more junior doctors, such as more flexible working patterns and training opportunities.

Dr Cliff Mann, president of the college, said the amount of spending on locums was "very unwise". He added: "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.

"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."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham blamed the rise in spending on the "disastrous" reorganisation of the NHS carried out by ministers and accused the government of "gross mismanagement of the NHS".

But a spokeswoman for health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that holding onto A&E doctors is a longstanding problem in the NHS and added that overall locum spend was down by 10 per cent across the NHS.

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