Staff shortages lead to record amounts being spent on air travel by Wigan hospital bosses to fill vacancies

Wigan hospital chiefs spent nearly £162,000 on international flights last year in a bid to recruit overseas nurses and doctors after the Covid-19 pandemic led to a record number of staff vacancies.
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The figure for 2022 dwarfs previous amounts spent on air flights by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) since records began to be compiled.

It was revealed in a Freedom of Information request by the Wigan Observer on how much the trust spent on business class flights over the past 10 years.

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This included the cost of flights paid directly by the hospital regardless of reimbursement, and also the cost of flights booked by staff that were reimbursed by the hospital.

Wigan Infirmary, part of WWL NHS TrustWigan Infirmary, part of WWL NHS Trust
Wigan Infirmary, part of WWL NHS Trust
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WWL said all international travel was economy class, but individuals could upgrade to business class if they contributed to the cost of the flight.

The figures provided by the trust only started in 2019, as they said they did not document the class booked for flights before that year.

This showed the annual spend on international flights was: £51,346 (2019); £10,014 (2020); nil (2021); £161,859 (2022); £11,925 (up to May this year). No flights were booked in 2021 because of the pandemic.

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A WWL spokesperson said: "We can confirm that international flights have been booked for staff over the past five years. The flights are booked to support the international recruitment of nurses and doctors and are in line with our trust policy on international travel.

"Our default trust position is that all international travel is economy class, but our policy allows for individuals to upgrade to business class if they contribute to the cost of the flight.

“The international flights are for members of staff and advisory/honorary members to WWL’s Global Training and Education Centre (GTEC) and are part of an international nursing and doctor recruitment programme.

"GTEC is delivering an ethical and sustainable recruitment model that supports NHS organisations to increase and develop their international recruitment plans.

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“The increase in spend during 2022 is in response to the expansion of WWL’s international recruitment programme to reflect the high number of vacancies the trust, and many other NHS organisations, experienced following the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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