£18,000 for one week’s work
How NHS is forking out a fortune for private firms to tackle staffing shortages
One firm was paid £ 18,000 to supply a cancer specialist for just one week’s work, a Sunday Post investigation has discovered.
Scotland’s cash-strapped health authorities are short of some 415 consultants, forcing them to turn to expensive locum agencies.
But watchdogs have raised fears over whether the payments to firms are being properly checked. A MASSIVE increase in hospital consultant vacancies has seen Scottish health chiefs spend £ 100 million hiring locums from private agencies.
CASH- STRAPPED health chiefs are shelling out up to £2500 a day for locum doctors to cover shortfalls and hit treatment targets in Scotland’s hospitals.
A Sunday Post investigation has laid bare the fortune being spent as private firms cash in on a consultant recruitment crisis gripping the NHS.
NHS Dumfries and Galloway paid £18,000 for a freelance cancer specialist to work just one week, while in Glasgow health chiefs paid out £497,000 for nine months’ consultancy cover.
Spending on locum consultants topped £ 100m last year and former SNP Health Secretary Alex Neil last night branded the situation “out of control” – calling for the NHS to take on the profit-making locum firms by setting up its own rival short-term cover business. Our probe can reveal: One health board paid nearly £ 500,000 for one consultant to do just seven months’ work to cover long- term gaps and hit Scottish Government treatment targets;
A 237% increase in vacant consultant posts since 2011 has left Scotland short of 48 cancer specialists;
One private locum provider made £ 9.4m from Scottish health boards last year alone;
Spending watchdogs have raised fears over how cash being paid to locums is being audited by NHS beancounters after one firm was paid without submitting any timesheets.
Writing for The Sunday Post, former SNP Cabinet Secretary Mr Neil said: “This is not good for patient safety. Nor is it a wise use of scarce resources.”
Figures show the increasing reliance of health boards on expensive agency medical staff. The data shows the biggest bills came in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde where one unnamed l ocum agency was paid £ 497,000 to provide a consultant for nine months.
The health board also paid £449,000 for another consultant to work eight months.
The spend was revealed in an Audit Scotland report – prepared for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and released under freedom of information laws – which stated that although the majority of this cover was to fill long- term vacancies, “a proportion of shifts worked were for waiting list initiatives”.
This is the treatment targets set by SNP ministers which health boards have to meet.
The report continues: “The board should evaluate whether the cost incurred in employing these locums has the expected impact on waiting
Donald Cameron. time targets. Using agency staff to provide longer- term cover does not provide value for money.”
The data also shows that in 2015, NHS Dumfries and Galloway paid £ 18,368 to locum agency Interact Medical for a radiology consultant to provide seven days’ worth of cover, including on-call.
The NHS Highland board spent £ 34,902 with ASH Locums Ltd to provide a month’s worth of out-ofhours medical cover in Caithness, Sutherland.
And NHS Lothian last year paid £ 2244 per eight- hour shift for a gastroenterology consultant.
In the Western Isles, the cost of providing a consultant surgeon for eight days came to £ 15,614 once the person’s wages and costs of the Templars Medical Agency were covered. Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said: “This is a terrible use of taxpayers’ money, and is starving an already hard- pressed NHS of precious resources.
“There will always be a place for locums. But due to the SNP’s chaotic workforce planning, health boards have become utterly dependent on them.
“Such a reliance leads to the ludicrous examples set out by The Sunday Post.”
In 2015/ 16, just over £ 6 billion ( 55%) of NHS spending went on staff costs.
According to Audit Scotland, the percentage of staff spending given to agency staff had increased from 1.4% in 2011/12 to 2.8% in 2015/16.
A report into the NHS workforce spending is due to be published by the spending watchdog next month.
Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “The SNP has made an absolute mess of managing our health service. Ministers created a workforce crisis which means soaring numbers of unfilled posts leading to increased pressure on underpaid staff.
“Health boards are having to turn to increasingly expensive private agency firms to meet government targets.”
Research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed the NHS spent £248 mon locum doctors and nurses in 2015/16.
That’s a £ 41m increase on the previous year, with some health boards even doubling their spend.
The bill for medical locums – primarily consultants – topped £100m last year but was only £20m a decade ago.
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Unfortunately, the fact is that in exceptional circumstances for extremely difficult to fill posts, we
do have to pay relatively high rates for specialist consultants who are supplied by a specialised medical agency.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our NHS has been working to reduce both the use of locum doctors and their cost.
“NHS staff numbers are at a record high – and compared with 2011, there are now 1,628 more doctors, an increase of 15% to 12,325.
“We’ve increased the number of funded medical school places this year by 50.
“In addition, our first graduate entry medical programme, with 40 places, starts next year and we are piloting two pre-medical entry programmes, with 40 places.
“This will take Scotland’s annual medical intake to 938 places, resulting in an additional 370 Government- funded places by 2020/21.”
FORMER SNP HEALTH SECRETARY