Over £17 million was spent on agency and locum doctors across hospitals and community services in 2017/18 as dependency on locums increases.
The Western Trust spent £17.3m to fill vacancies in the health service due to the Trust’s ‘challenges recruiting medical staff due to its geographical location.’
Locums are doctors and medical staff who provide temporary cover in hospitals, but they cost significantly more than permanent Trust employed doctors.
These staff members are being used to maintain services at a worrying cost as nearly a quarter of the Trust’s medical pay bill is spent on locum cover.
The use of locums is putting financial strain on all health trusts across the North as the BBC reports that the amount spent covering the shortage of doctors in hospitals has almost trebled in six years.
Councillor Raymond Farrell believes the Department must do more to attract medical staff to the area.
“I do appreciate the challenges we face in terms of recruiting doctors here in the south West region and do acknowledge the efforts that have been made both locally and internationally by the Western Trust to recruit.
“I do however believe that a great onus and responsibility does rest here with the Department of Health and that a statement of intent into the future of services as well as not only retention of services but also the potential for the development of new services will greatly boost the confidence of potential candidates for posts as well as the local community at large,” said Mr Farrell.
The Western Trust has engaged in an international recruitment campaign for the past four years to address this shortage and to date has recruited approximately over 90 doctors through this campaign into the NHS.
Defending the use of locums, a Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) spokesman said, “There is a heavy reliance on locum doctors for the provision of healthcare services across Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole. As with all healthcare organisations, the Western Trust is not immune from national and regional medical shortages in many hospital specialities. It is important to provide safe and high quality care in our hospitals and in our community facilities, to that end the use of locum doctors is unavoidable.”
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Posted: 3:33 pm April 27, 2019