Copeland MP Uncovers Skyrocketing Costs of Temporary Hospital Workers

18th February 2015

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Copeland MP and Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed has shown that spending on temporary agency staff (or Locums) has almost trebled since 2011/12. Spend at both West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle has increased massively.

The projected spend on Locums for the current financial year (2014/15) is £16.5 million, up from £5.69 million in 2011/12. The biggest increases have been seen in Accident and Emergency (£538,000 up to £2.42 million) and Acute Medicine (£385,000 to £2.36 million).

A significant part of this spending is on temporary consultant-level staff. In 2011/12, the Trust spent £3.36 million on consultant-level locums. This rose to almost £10 million in 2014/15.

A recent review into Whistleblowing in the NHS by Robert Francis QC found that locum staff can find themselves in a vulnerable position when it comes to raising concerns.

The report found:

“There are a number of issues for these groups in terms of raising concerns:

  • They may have no formal induction and therefore may not know where and how to raise concerns 
  • They may lack support if they have concerns 
  • They may fear that they will not be employed again by the organisation if they do raise a concern 
  • They may fear that their agency will receive a bad reference making employment elsewhere difficult.” 

Copeland MP and Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed MP said: 

“Staff in our local hospitals work tirelessly in extremely difficult circumstances, but even after repeated requests for assistance the Government is still failing to provide this.

“Time and again, the Secretary of State has ignored calls to intervene to address the recruitment crisis in West Cumbria. These figures are truly shocking and show a situation that is deteriorating. Locums often work on much higher rates than permanent staff and if the recruitment crisis is addressed, it would release significant sums of money to improve services.

“That there has been a big increase in consultant-level locums means that problems are being stored up for the future. Locums can’t train junior doctors and so if we are reliant on locums, new junior doctors will go elsewhere. I recently set out plans to bring together schools, universities and health commissioners in the area to ‘grow our own’ medical professionals and identify young talent interested in medical careers. The Government should back these plans.

“I will be raising this with the Secretary of State for Health again. He should back Labour’s plans for 20,000 new nurses, 8,000 new doctors and 3,000 new midwives to reduce the dependency on locums and ease the pressure on our workforce.”

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