Foyle SDLP Assembly Member Mark H Durkan has called for action after it emerged that the Western Health and Social Care Trust has had to spend almost £13m on medical and dental locum sin the past year.
Mr Durkan had asked the Minister for Health for a breakdown of locum costs across the five Northern Ireland Trusts for year to April 1, 2016.
The figures show that £12.9m was spent in the Western Trust- more than twice that of the Southern Trust and around three times the amount spent by the South Eastern Trust. The figure for the west was second only to that of Belfast.
Mr Durkan said the amount of money being spent was “far more than has been spent by other Trusts of a similar size”. He said the figures laid bare the difficulties in attracting and retaining staff to the Western Trust area.
“This is money that they cannot then spend on other services and care for patients and service users,” Mr Durkan said, adding: “I believe there has to be some sort of intervention from the centre, from the Department to make it easier for the Western Trust in particular to recruit and retain staff in specialist areas.”
Mr Durkan said that local people were well aware of the pressures facing the health service and the impact this was having on the ground.
“In the long term what might go some way to resolving this is the establishment of a Medical School in the North West,” he said.
“We could also enhance north-south collaboration to create a bigger patient base.
“Furthermore there are so many talented people who have left here and are looking after people all over the world and we could and should be trying to bring them back home.”