Ipswich Hospital pays up to £1,000 a day for stand-in consultants amid staff shortages

One agency recruit has worked at Ipswich Hospital for three years

One agency recruit has worked at Ipswich Hospital for three years - Credit: Staff

Agency consultants at Ipswich Hospital are being paid up to £126 per hour to fill gaps in the rota, it has been revealed.

The trust is predicted to spend around £11 million on temporary workers by the end of this financial year - £3m over its target.

Across the UK there is a shortage of top qualified doctors and Ipswich Hospital is actively trying to recruit from overseas to fill vacancies.

In the meantime it has to rely on staff loans from often expensive agencies to keep services running safely.

According to data seen by the Star and EADT, one stand-in specialist is earning £24,000 per month at an hourly rate of £126.67.

During a typical eight-hour working day this consultant would cost the trust more than £1,000.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: “Our priority is to make sure all patients get safe, high quality and compassionate care at all times by ensuring the right staff are here to care for them. We don’t want to keep patients waiting longer than necessary for their treatment, nor for them to have to travel to other hospitals.

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“We use agency and locum staff only when necessary. This is often for highly skilled roles where there is a national shortage of staff, and like many other hospitals it is hard for us to recruit permanently to these roles.”

Last month 2,055 shifts at Ipswich Hospital were covered by agency staff, 71% of whom were paid over the capped rate.

Some fill-in doctors are staying in their role for up to three years.

Aside from the cost, Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said there were other risks associated with the use of locum recruits.

“Two such risks that Healthwatch Suffolk are concerned with is the need for an agency worker to be aware of and understand local values and ethos in the short time they are at the hospital,” he said.

“The second risk revolves around the critical nature of a patient’s continuity of care, which can be affected by the use of transient clinicians and staff.”

Mr Yacoub added: “Our health and social care services are facing notable challenges with the recruitment and retention of clinical staff and this is something that must be addressed both locally and nationally.

“Within this context, we are aware that the Care Quality Commission rate the hospital as good, which includes its management of finances at times of austerity.

“As a local Healthwatch, our concern must always be that the hospital continues to provide the most effective and safe services possible to patients and their families within the resources available to it. We recognise that, at times, this may necessitate the need to fill short term gaps in staffing and expertise to ensure that the experience of patients and their families is not compromised.”

Overall Ipswich Hospital is expected to run a deficit of £20.1m in 2016/2017.

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