The NHS in north Wales has had difficulty recruiting junior doctors, and had to spend more on agency costs as a result. An increase of 22% in spending on locum and agency doctors has taken place this year, as the NHS is attempting to cut costs, especially on agency staff.
These doctors have been used to fill up staff rotas, as recruitment has been low for junior doctors. However the NHS in north Wales has maintained that it has done its best to provide permanent staff for patients in its care.
The figures were put together through a freedom of information request to the Welsh health boards, and detailed the spending on locum and agency doctors, which rose from £33.6 million in 2009-2010 to £41 million in 2010-2011.
According to the Royal College of Surgeons, the rise in temporary doctors is due to EU laws that restrict the amount of hours doctors can work. The chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners’ Committee (GPC) for Wales, Dr. David Bailey, discussed the issue.
He said, “The current system is a bit like a house of cards and it’s down to a failure to recruit in some areas.
“In north Wales there is a particular problem with consultants having to cross-cover juniors and those consultants are obviously working to European working directives.
“This has caused lots of problems because rotas are getting more difficult and there is less face-to-face training for juniors.”
Recruitment Low Due to Low Career Potential
Dr. Dai Samuels, chair of the Welsh Junior Doctors Committee said recruitment was difficult as many junior doctors were opting to work in Australia or New Zealand due to low career potential in Wales.
He said, “I’m very concerned, and certainly the BMA are, that the proposed plans to change the NHS radically in England could actually make things even more diverse.
“We might face the problem of an even bigger mass exodus because people might not want to work in Wales forever, so they will fear that if they start working in Wales they won’t be able to swap over the border, so they will go to England from the start to make sure that they can actually work there in a few years’ time.”
Agency staff cost the NHS more and may not be cost effective, especially as hospitals are trying to cut costs. However, the flexibility provided by agency staff can be a benefit at busy times.