THE Morecambe Bay hospital trust paid almost £2,500 for an agency doctor to cover a bank holiday shift, it has been revealed.
The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), which last year admitted it needed to save £30m or face going bust, spent £2,493.60 on a single 24-hour cover on May 5, according to Freedom of Information figures.
“These are eye-watering sums to be paying for locum cover,” blasted Furness MP, John Woodcock. “Especially when finances at the Morecambe Bay trust are so tight.”
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Earlier this year the Gazette reported how the use of agency staff had seen the trust overspend by £8.6m on staffing.
According to Aaron Cummins, finance director for UHMBT, it had to call in agency locums which cost it £5.1m more than planned in the year up to the end of February.
It also overspent by £2.1m on nursing and midwifery staff and £1.4m on ‘other’ staff.
In June, the trust was placed in special measures following a Care Quality Commission inspection of its three sites at Kendal, Lancaster and Barrow.
One of the CQC’s criticisms of the trust was short-staffing.
“This demonstrates clearly how important it is that issues of short-staffing and staff retention at the trust, as highlighted by the Care Quality Commission, are dealt with as soon as possible,” continued Mr Woodcock.
“Not only do staff shortages threaten patient safety, they also end up costing the trust heavily.
“With the trust now in special measures, it is important that we do not see further slashing of numbers of doctors and nurses in a short-sighted, cost-saving measure.”
This week David Wilkinson, director of workforce and organisational development for the trust, said the safety of patients was ‘paramount’ and the trust used agency staff to ‘meet the needs of patients’.
“Where we have to employ agency staff to cover gaps in our rotas we will do so, albeit only after exploring all other routes,” he said.
“However, we know that as a trust our spending on agency staffing is too high and we have been reliant on agency staff, but our plans are to continually reduce this through investing in our own front-line people.
“Compared to April 2013 we now have 221 more front-line clinical staff in post and we will continue our strategy to attract high calibre individuals to work in the trust to ensure that our patients receive the high quality care they deserve.”