£18,000 for one week’s work

How NHS is fork­ing out a for­tune for pri­vate firms to tackle staffing short­ages

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - Front Page - By An­drew Picken

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

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