50% doctor vacancies were filled by expensive locums

Locum costs.
Locum costs.

Fifty per cent of both consultant and junior doctor vacancies at the Western Trust were still being filled by expensive locum doctors in December, it’s been revealed.

Out of 31 consultant vacancies, 16 were filled by external locums, although the remainder were filled by NHS locums, which are not as costly.

According to the minute of a recent board meeting, 30 out of 60 junior doctor vacancies were also filled by locums.

The Business Services Organisation (BSO) has established a ‘locum doctors’ model’ which is aimed at reducing the cost of locums across Northern Ireland.

Back in 2011 a Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) report revealed the cost of expensive locum cover in the Western Trust accounted for almost 17 per cent of medical staffing - double the NI average and the highest locum bill in the province - between 2007 and 2011.

In 2011/12 the Trust spent £3.2m filling middle grade and junior doctor agencies with agency locums. Of this £3.2m the highest usage of locums by speciality was in Accident and Emergency (A&E) with an £832,524 spend.

This was followed by Medicine (£617,195); Surgery (£524,647); Paediatrics (£522,308); Anaesthetics (£437,594); Obstetrics & Gynaecology (229,400); and Psychiatry (£127,864). Expenditure on Agency Consultant Doctors in 2011/12 stood at £1,765,342.