Health bosses work to cut over spending on locums

Locum doctors are "essential"

Locum doctors are "essential"

Wigan health chiefs are trying to tackle rising employment costs after figures revealed that the borough is still overspending on agency staff.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust ranked 115th out of 236 trusts for the rate of spending over the locum workers cap, which was brought into force in November 2015.

A freedom of information request showed that the majority of NHS providers which supplied data, were paying more than the guidelines ruled.

Despite the spending cap, providers are at liberty to breach the rules if patient safety is deemed to be at a significant risk.

A spokesman for WWL said: “The Trust works hard to reduce its reliance on locum and agency staff. However, we are mindful that there is currently a recruitment challenge facing all trusts due to medical staff shortages in certain specialities.

“We have a recruitment strategy which includes both national and international programmes of work. We are incredibly grateful for the contribution locum staff make as they continue to be an essential response to the staffing challenges. They help to provide and ensure safe patient care is maintained, and services are continued to be delivered to the Wigan community.

“The Trust has appropriate governance in place to assess and review usage and spend. We have also implemented a number of initiatives to support the aim of reducing spend over the longer term.”

Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has said that it is not aware of GP’s locum staff spending as the practices manage their own agency hire and are not required to inform the authority.

Dr Tim Dalton, GP and Chair of the CCG, said: “Locum doctors are an important part of the GP workforce as they keep practices open when the regular GPs are unable to be in the practice, for example when they are ill or on holiday, or when there is a vacancy.

“However, patients value continuity of care so it is important that GP practices manage their use of locum doctors carefully.

“We know that locally GP practices sometimes have difficulty recruiting GPs and this can mean that locum doctors are used for extended periods of time. This system isn’t sustainable, so we are working with practices to help them to make the most efficient use of GP time.”

The CCG is hoping that the better use of technology and closer partnerships between GPs, nurses and community link workers will result in less patients needing to see a doctor.