Wigan hospital trust has blamed ongoing “recruitment challenges” for rocketing spending on medical locums, with figures revealing a £1.2m increase in spending in just 12 months.
Figures released by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) have shown that £4.48m was paid out for stand-in doctors between 2018 and 2019 alone.
The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals a 39 per cent increase from the previous year when the trust spent £3.22m on locums and a 29 per cent rise from the year before when they spent £3.45m.
Hospital bosses have pledged to try and reduce the amount that is being spent on the temporary staff, saying that it is facing a “recruitment challenge”.
Alison Balson, director of workforce at WWL, said: “The trust is committed to making every attempt to reduce our expenditure on locum provision while balancing this with the provision for high quality services for patients.
“However, like all Trusts, we face a recruitment challenge due to medical, nursing and Allied Health Profession shortages in certain specialities.
“In response, we have a recruitment and retention strategy which includes both national and international programmes of work.
“The Trust is also incurring additional agency costs due to the well-publicised issues related to the NHS Pension Scheme, where senior clinical staff are incurring significant unplanned tax liabilities.
“They tell us that this makes it financially unviable to work additional shifts, as they can pay more in tax than they would earn from working.
“We are grateful for the contribution agency workers and locums make as they help to ensure safe patient care is maintained, and services can continue to be delivered for the Wigan community.”
The problems in recruitment seem to extend beyond doctors and at the end of last year the Wigan Observer revealed that the number of agency staff in general had doubled in a 10-month period.
In an attempt to combat a shortage in applications, exiting chief executive Andrew Foster travelled to India to recruit doctors to WWL and to other trusts across the North West of England.