Spending on temporary doctors soars

By Ian Dipple Thursday 16 January 2014 Updated: 17/01 09:52

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SPENDING on temporary doctors to staff the county's A&E departments has trebled over the last four years.

Bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust say the rise is down to the increasing number of people being admitted through A&E at both the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal hospitals, as well as shortage of doctors in emergency medicine nationally making it more difficult to recruit on a permanent basis.

Figures released by the Trust following a Freedom of Information request by Labour, show they spent £535,000 on locum and agency doctors in 2009/10, 15 per cent of the total A&E medical budget. That has now increased to over £1.5million and accounts for 32 per cent of the same fund.

The increase is five times the average rise throughout the UK which is about 60 per cent.

Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, said the Government needed to act.

"I am fighting hard for us to keep accident and emergency services at the Alexandra Hospital, and this trebling of costs is a huge blow," she said.

"The top down re-organisation of the NHS, put in place by this Tory led Government, is putting the A&E departments in crisis. It’s letting us down. It’s also letting down A&E professionals. Our A&E departments are under staffed and under pressure, making it even harder to work there."

But Redditch MP Karen Lumley said she was not taking any lessons from Labour as the problem of recruiting A&E doctors had first been flagged up in 2004, under the previous government.

"The problem is ongoing. It takes six years to train an A&E doctor and while we are trying to train more now, you can't just magic doctors out of the air," she said.

It is not the first time difficulties recruiting permanently to vacant posts within the county's A&E departments has been raised and is one of the reasons behind the ongoing review of hospital services which began in January 2012.

In October last year the Trust reported it had 60 medical locum and agency posts, particularly within A&E.

Chris Tidman, deputy chief executive and director of resources, said: "It has been well documented nationally there is currently a shortfall in the number of A&E doctors, particularly given the need to provide seven day a week consultant cover. At a local level, we have also seen significant pressure on both A&E departments over the last two years due to a seven per cent rise in emergency admissions, which has required additional locum and agency medical staffing to maintain quality and safety.

"Whilst short-term measures such as overseas recruitment are in place to reduce the reliance on the more costly temporary staffing, the trust is also working closely with its Clinical Commissioning Groups to help take the pressure of its A&E departments by making better use of alternative services."

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