Big rise in hospital spending on locum doctors

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Spending on locum doctors to plug gaps at Milton Keynes Hospital’s struggling A&E has almost trebled in four years.

The Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust spent £234,000 on locum doctors to help staff its under pressure A&E in 2009/10, but by 2012/13 that figures had increased to £637,500 – a rise of more than 170 per cent.

However, that year’s cost was down on the 2011/12 total when the hospital splashed out £730,400 on temporary doctors. The cost for 2010/11 was £551,500.

The figures, obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act, show that £83.3m was spent nationally in 2012/13, up from £52m in 2009/10.

Employing locum doctors could cost £1,500 a shift, four times as much as filling a shift with permanent staff.

But while Milton Keynes Hospital spends more to manage the huge pressure on its A&E, the average spend by Trusts in the south east of England was actually down from £530,387 in 2009/10 to £486,714 in 2012/13.

Joe Harrison, Chief Executive of Milton Keynes Hospital, said: “There has been a real focus on reducing agency spend this year in all areas of the hospital.

“The Trust is also in the process of recruiting more A&E clinicians to significantly lower the amount of money spent on temporary staff even further.

“Due to the increasing and aging population of Milton Keynes, the number of people attending the Accident and Emergency department is rising.

“Agency staff work with the hospital’s substantive clinical teams to help provide safe, timely care during peak times, as well as providing cover for absence.”