Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cost of Temporary A&E Doctors Soars to PS1.6m

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cost of Temporary A&E Doctors Soars to PS1.6m

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor

THE cost of paying temporary doctors to work at accident and emergency units across the North East increased by 59% in three years as hospitals struggled to find permanent staff.

Data obtained by the Labour Party showed that spending on locums, was PS1.6m last year, a rise from PS1m in 2009-10.

Agency doctors are employed for almost one in 10 consultant shifts and up to one in six more junior posts, the figures reveal.

A locum can earn PS1,500 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.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the increasing costs were linked to the Coalition's "disastrous" reorganisation of the NHS. He said: "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 the 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."

The Department for Health set up a new body in 2012 called Health Education England to tackle historical shortages in doctors working in emergency medicine and encourage more doctors into emergency medicine.

Health Minister Dan Poulter said the first warnings about the challenges facing accident and emergency units were put to the previous government as early as 2004, but the previous government failed to act. …

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