DERRY JOURNAL Editorial: Locum costs must be tackled to allow sustainable investment in health service
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Across the North, the total bill rose by £65,682,197 from £254,730,859 to £320,413,056 during the same period.
And, between 2012/13 and 2021/22, agency spend rose from £68m to £320m.
This transfer of public money to the private companies that provide essential locum staff seems a nettle that cannot be grasped.
Clearly it would be preferable for vacancies to be filled permanently so that this money could be invested elsewhere within our health service.
However, this is not as easy to achieve as it might sound, particularly in the Western Trust which has traditionally faced structural challenges in recruiting medical staff due to its peripheral geographical location.
Nonetheless, it is approaching seven years since Professor Rafael Bengoa and his expert panel concluded that money spent on locums is money not available for investing in services that are sustainable in the long term; that there was anecdotal evidence that, for some junior doctors, the benefits of locum work had superseded the benefits of a permanent position; and that many permanent staff flagged continuity and consistency issues in a service relying on transitory staff.
Another problem that’s not being solved thanks to the ongoing Stormont hiatus.