Spending on locum doctors to plug the gaps in A&E units has jumped at the George Eliot Hospital Trust from £1,058,000 in 2011-12 to £1,467,000 in 2012-13 according to figures obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act.
Employing locum doctors can cost £1,500 a shift, four times as much as permanent staff per shift.
Across England hospitals have seen a rise in the cost of using locums by 60% in three years from £52m in 2009-10 to £83.3m last year.
Commenting on the national figures Dr Cliff Mann, of the College of Emergency Medicine, said:
“This sort of spending is very 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.
“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 College says half of trainee posts in England are unfilled. It believes the unsocial hours and pressures on A&E departments have made it less attractive than other areas of medicine.
Mike O’Brien, the former NHS minister who will stand for Labour in North Warwickshire and Bedworth at the next general election, said,
“It is a matter of concern that costs have shot up so fast at the George Eliot when the hospital has financial issues. Locums cost more than fully employed staff per shift. They don’t get the other employment rights of full time staff though.
“These figures predate the Keogh Report six months ago, which put the hospital on special measures, so I believe they reflect part of a wider national problem rather than just a local one. Although the use of A&E has increased in the last two decades, Labour saw the problems and was dealing with it by creating walk in centre’s like the one at Camp Hill, funding extended GP opening hours and providing more social care for the elderly. Many of these budgets have been cut since 2010. The Conservatives took their eye off the ball over A&E and became distracted by with their plans to re-organise the NHS and allow the private sector to take over.
“Today, George Eliot managers are having to cope with A&E pressures, NHS reorganisation, financial problems, the bidding process for an outside organisation to takeover the hospital and the Keogh Report, so with all that on their plate, some issues like the rising cost of locums may get missed.”
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said, “The full consequences of David Cameron’s disastrous re-organisation are now being felt across the NHS.??
“Doctors pleaded with the Prime Minister to stick to his promise of ‘no top-down re-organisation’ because they knew it would drag the NHS down and distract attention from front-line. Cameron refused to listen and ploughed on regardless, dismantling workforce planning structures just when senior A&E doctors were warning of a looming recruitment crisis.??
“The NHS is now reeling from the consequences of the Prime Minister’s failure to act on these warnings. He has left it with a dangerous shortage of A&E doctors and a bill for locums which is spiralling out of control.??
“This Government is guilty of gross mismanagement of the NHS. They are paying more for an A&E service which is getting worse by the week. And things have got so bad that many doctors are deciding to quit.??
“Sadly it is patients who are paying the price for Cameron’s arrogance. More than a million people have waited more than four hours to be seen in the last year.?
“This is an A&E crisis of David Cameron’s own making and there’s a real danger it will overwhelm hospitals. He must urgently get to grips with it, take action to bring down the bill for locum doctors and ensure all A&Es have enough doctors to get safely through the winter.”??
See picture of Andy Burnham and Mike O’Brien at the George Eliot Hospital.