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Hospitals rack up overspend of £3.8million
A SHORTAGE of doctors at Colchester’s hospitals meant they overspent by £3.8million in seven months.
The cost has been blamed on the need for agency and locum staff to cover sickness and unfilled vacancies.
Nearly £1.5million was for doctors in Colchester General Hospital’s A&E department and the emergency assessment unit.
A spokesman for Colchester Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust said: “Nationally, hospitals find it really difficult to recruit doctors to those areas.
“We always try to employ our own staff but, like other hospitals, this simply isn’t possible in all specialities, so we have no choice but to go down the locum and agency route.”
The hospital’s budget for agency and locum staff was £1.9million, but it ended up spending £5.7million. Almost half the bookings were due to unfilled vacancies.
The second most common reason – 30 per cent of bookings–was for additional cover because of spikes in demand.
Sickness accounted for 7 per cent of locum bookings. Other reasons include covering for doctors’ training, or for study leave.
The cost of a locum consultant is twice as much as one employed by a hospital trust.
The average wage of a full-time staff consultant is £90,000 a year.
A spokesman for doctors’ union the British Medical Association said: “Trusts should seek to deliver value for money and recruit consultants to substantive posts where possible.
“Some specialities are, however, facing a recruitment crisis because of gruelling workloads, overstretched staff and limited resources.
“To stem this problem, we urgently need to address issues around workload pressures, resourcing and work-life balance.
Only by making working practices and environments safe and sustainable will the hospitals be able to attract and retain the required number and mix of doctors.”
Across Essex, Southend Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust overspent £5.6million on locum and agency staff from April to October 2013.
It blamed the figure on having to provide coverage for vacant medical roles.
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