Millions spent on hospital temps

THE trust responsible for the Queen’s Hospital spent more than �12 million last year on agency medical staff.

Staff shortages brought about by recruitment freezes mean managers often have to draft in costly cover at short notice.

It has forced Barking, Havering and Redbridge Trust to fork out �8 million on stand-in consultants, who can command shifts rates of up �3,000 for their skills.

More than �4 million was also spent on hiring nurses to work emergency shifts which would otherwise be left unfilled and leave patients at risk.

The trust says the expenditure is essential to the running of its services but it is looking for ways to cut back on temps and place more emphasis on permanent employees.

But Patients’ Association Chief Executive Katherine Murphy said it is an “outrageous” waste of resources.

She said: “The consultant will not know the policy and procedures of that hospital and could be putting patient safety at risk.

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“We want clinical mangers within hospitals to take responsibility for managing staff rotas to ensure there are enough doctors available to treat patients effectively and that safety is not compromised.”

The Department of Health has said the amount spent on agency staff is unacceptable and health secretary Andrew Lansley has ordered management outlay to be reined in by 45 per cent by 2014.

But the British Medical Association says staff employment freezes are likely to increase demand for agency staff.

A BHR Trust spokeswoman said: “Temporary nurses and locum doctors are sometimes needed to cover staff vacancies and sickness and avoid clinics being cancelled or wards becoming unsafe, although we are having to spend more on temps than we would like.

“The Trust is working to reduce our reliance on temporary staff by recruiting more permanent clinical staff who can offer better continuity of care as well as better value.

“We are introducing new measures to reduce spend, including a cap on the rates of pay given to temps, cutting back on admin temps and tightening authorisation procedures as well as recruiting more permanent frontline clinicians.”