Pressure soars in locum costs hike
Forth Valley savings target fails as shift fee up to £550 daily
The amount NHS Forth Valley is spending on locum doctors in GP practices across the area has risen dramatically in the last three years.
Figures released by the health board show that a total of £329,892 was spent on locum GPs in 2016/17 compared to £18,141 in 2013/14 – meaning they are now spending almost 18 times as uch.
It was also revealed that the largest shift paid per locum GP shift has risen from £400 each day four years ago to £550 this year.
The news comes after it emerged that NHS Forth Valley was one of five health boards across Scotland to fail to meet its £26.6 million savings target for 2016/17.
The NHS say that the increased spend on GP locums comes as they have taken over responsibility for managing a number of practices – including Bannockburn Health Centre.
Dean Lockhart, Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, says, however, that these figures are an indication of the pressures on GP services in Stirling and across the region.
Now, the MSP has called on the Scottish Government to address the issue, and support his party’s plan to use 11 per cent of health spending on GP practices.
He said: “Ministers and local SNP politicians are fond of trumpeting the number of GP training places they are offering, and how well the Scottish NHS is doing compared to its counterparts in the rest of the UK, but frankly this is no longer holding up.
“The blame for that lies firmly at the SNP’s door.
“They have starved general practice of proper funding for the last ten years. Now we see the damage that has caused.
“Our Save our Surgeries campaign is clear – 11 per cent of NHS funding should go straight into general practice so we can help local practices recruit and retain staff without having to rely on locums to keep them afloat.
“The buck stops with the SNP. It is time they acted.”
Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford pointed to the fact that overall external agency spend has decreased in the last year – from £463,452 in 2015-16 to the latest figure of £329,892.
And the SNP politician says that, while there are challenges to be faced, his party has committed more funding to Scotland’s NHS than ever before.
He said: “Scotland is not the only country in the UK to be experiencing challenges with recruiting GPs which is why the Scottish Government is taking a range of actions, including increasing the number of medical training places in our universities and establishing a new graduate training programme that focuses specifically on general practice, and specific work on addressing GP shortage in rural and remote areas.
“The recently produced Audit Scotland report showed a number of areas where there are challenges in our health service, and it is important that the Scottish Government works to make improvements where it can.
“However, the report also does highlight the fact that overall external agency spend has decreased in the past year.
“It is also worth noting that the report points out that NHS staff are not just maintaining patient care, but improving it across our entire health service – and they are owed a great debt of gratitude from all of us for their tireless work.”
Mr Crawford added: “The SNP in government has committed more funding to Scotland’s NHS than ever before, yet there are big challenges ahead for our health service.
“Anybody can point to these challenges from the side-lines, but the Scottish Government is getting on with the job of putting actions in place to properly address them.”
A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley said: “The spend on GP locums has increased over the last few years because NHS Forth Valley has taken over responsibility for managing a number of GP practices, including Bannockburn and Kersiebank Medical Practices.
“Additional staff, including locum and salaried GPs, have been put in place in both of these practices to ensure local people continue to have access to primary care services.
“All Forth Valley GP practices have open lists and we work closely with local practices to discuss at any potential staffing or recruitment difficulties at early stages.”