latest health care news

19.12.16

Mackey calls for crackdown on ‘excessive’ locum pay

Locum doctors are demanding “excessive” pay rates from trusts, placing even more strain on financially vulnerable and understaffed services, NHS Improvement (NHSI) has warned.

Analysis undertaken by the NHS’s financial regulator revealed that some doctors are earning up to £155 an hour for covering shifts in hospitals with serious staff shortages or in particular medical specialties.

The staff shortage across the country is now so acute that one trust in the north of England recently paid £10,000 a week for three consultants in order to maintain a normal service for patients.

NHS Improvement’s chief executive Jim Mackey said that not only are high-earning locums unfair on permanent staff who earn less, they also risk affecting patients’ quality of care.

“There are circumstances where locums are necessary to fill short-term gaps and we recognise that the supply of doctors needs to improve,” Mackey said to the Observer yesterday.

“However, it is wrong from a quality, financial and fairness point of view to pay excessive rates for locums when they are working alongside hard working permanent staff on NHS terms.”

NHSI’s caps last year on the amount that temporary staff can be paid has not yet yielded the savings expected, as locums still accounted for over a third of the NHS’s total £3.6bn bill last year for agency staff.

In the first seven months of this financial year between April and October 2016 NHS trusts in England spent £616m on locum doctors, 35% of all of trusts spending during that period, leaving hospitals on course to spend £1.056bn on stand-ins this year.

While this would still be almost 20% less than the £1.3bn given out by trusts in 2015-16, trusts have found locum doctors’ rates harder to reduce than those of nurses, with the average costs of locum doctors only 13% lower compared to 18% lower for agency nurses.

“[We hope that] locum use, eventually, is seen as a rare, short-term event, and the costs are brought into line with substantive employment,” Mackey said.

However, the British Medical Association warned that cutting the rates that hospitals are allowed to pay may leave units struggling to cope even further, as medics already working as locums to boost their pay will not be sufficiently attracted to work the shifts.

“Increasingly, locums are employed because hospitals can’t attract staff to take up full-time posts. Caps do not address the root causes of the recruitment and retention problems in many parts of the NHS, especially emergency medicine, and the government’s plan to simply name and shame trusts or individuals will not address the underlying issues causing an over-reliance on agency workers,” said the BMA’s chair of council Dr Mark Porter.

Dr Porter suggested that a better solution to bring down agency costs would be to improve working conditions for permanent NHS medical staff, for example by introducing more flexible shift patterns.

At the NHS Providers conference last month, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the NHS should place a new focus on ‘e-rostering’ in order to counter rigid shifts for permanent NHS staff. ‘E-rostering’ was recently recommended by Lord Carter as part of his report into hospital inefficiency.

At the same conference, NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens urged trusts with “completely unaffordable” clinical locums to contact NHSI so that they can be helped to end the practice, arguing that the NHS cannot continue to sustain locums under its current model.

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Comments

Anon   19/12/2016 at 14:08

What ridiculous amount does Mackey get paid? he is soooo boring

Radman   19/12/2016 at 14:14

What about the crackdown on excessive executive pay we keep on hearing about? Would Mr Mackay care to share with us how much his own remuneration amounts to (including bonuses)?

ANON   19/12/2016 at 14:22

Talk about blaming the result of years of abuse of all NHS staff by management and now that the goodwill of doctors and nurses has been well and truly exhausted, they have voted with their feet and left the NHS in their hundreds and they continue to do so. Clinicians have woken up to the fact that they are a scarce commodity and like in all other areas of life when something is rare it attracts more money. This problem is as a direct result of years of abuse from successive governments and now we are all up the creek. A cynical person would say this is part of the master plan to bring the NHS to its knees and then privatise.

ANON   19/12/2016 at 14:23

Talk about blaming the result of years of abuse of all NHS staff by management and now that the goodwill of doctors and nurses has been well and truly exhausted, they have voted with their feet and left the NHS in their hundreds and they continue to do so. Clinicians have woken up to the fact that they are a scarce commodity and like in all other areas of life when something is rare it attracts more money. This problem is as a direct result of years of abuse from successive governments and now we are all up the creek. A cynical person would say this is part of the master plan to bring the NHS to its knees and then privatise.

Simon   19/12/2016 at 18:57

Supply and demand mate...

Git   14/04/2017 at 11:15

What do you get paid you fking prick? If you want to save money then address management savings you b....ds. Why the hell should we not charge what we are worth - look at Oz, Canada and U.S.? The former two offer substantially higher pay and you are paid per patient seen( in primary care). If you want to make healthcare a business which the current idiotic government does, then succumb to the market and pay what is owed for supply and demand. Twats

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