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£1.8m cost of locum doctors at north Cumbria's A&E units

The cost of temporary doctors to cover staff shortages at A&E units in north Cumbria has risen by £1.4 million over the last four years.

A&E photo

Figures obtained by the Labour party show a sharp rise in spending on locum to staff the busy units in Carlisle and Whitehaven.

Freedom of Information requests reveal North Cumbria University Hospitals, which runs the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital, spent £1,860,135 on locums in 2012/13. That was compared to £431,138 back in 2009/10.

The trust insists it is working hard to reduce its reliance on temporary doctors – with a target to halve its spending within the next two years.

Labour published the figures – which reveal a national locum spending is now £83m a year – to show the rise since the general election.

Responding to the figures, Lee Sheriff, the party’s candidate for Carlisle at the next election, said: “I am extremely concerned at the huge increase we have seen in north Cumbria. A four-fold increase in the bill for temporary locum doctors shows we have a real problem. Staff at the hospital are working extremely hard and this is not a problem of their making.

“I will be asking the local trust for reassurance on the current staffing levels in A&E. Local people deserve an emergency department staffed by well-qualified, permanent and settled staff.

“The College of Emergency Medicine believes that hundreds of top doctors’ roles in A&E have gone unfilled in recent years, as the crisis in A&E puts people off wanting to work in emergency departments. The government must take urgent action.”

A spokeswoman for the cash-strapped North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said progress is being made: “We are reducing our dependency on locum cover at both hospitals with the appointment of substantive consultants.

“Since September 2012, we have successfully recruited 20 consultants in a variety of specialities and we are expecting a further five consultants to be joining us in January to March. Therefore we are continuing to reduce costs as much as we can and have put in place a comprehensive recruitment campaign with the aim of reducing our locum cover by 50 per cent over the next two years.”

Employing locum doctors can cost £1,500 a shift – about four times as much as using a permanent staff member.

Have your say

This is just typical Labour political pointscoring from a wanabee career politician. The reason locum spending is up is because doctors just don't want to work in A&E due to the horrendous conditions dealing with drunks and drug addicts etc. This is nothing to do with petty party politics so Lee Sheriff should stop trying to score points and do some constructive. Carlisle does not need a career politician we need a local MP.

Posted by Christian on 15 February 2014 at 18:58

The Tory government introduced PFI. Labour took up the baton but had little choice given the very neglected NHS that they inherited. However when labour left office patient satisfation was at its highest and waiting times at their lowest. I have not noticed the present coalition government committing in any way to halting the PFI strategy have you!? Far from it they have opened up the whole of the NHS to huge private companies and EU/US competition, thanks to the massive Health and Social Care Act, despite the fact that it is our NHS and according to the constiution, it belongs to the people. Well not any more apparently, although our general taxes go to funding it! This was not in their mandate and I do not think the people of this country would ever have agreed with this, in fact David Cameron is on film stating there would be no privatisation of the NHS, so please explain that one..

Posted by Steve on 16 January 2014 at 17:44

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