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Cut back on locums could save NHS millions

17th June 2010

An audit report has shown that hospitals in Scotland could save £6m a year if they cut back on the number of agency doctors they used.

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Audit Scotland also fears use of locums could affect patient safety.

Figures show that the number of locums, which can cost up to £104 an hour compared to £11 an hour for internal staff, rose from 3,700 to 8,200 in the past 10 years.

Audit Scotland found that health boards spend £47m a year recruiting medics for temporary staffing cover, paying commission of between 23% and 30% to private agencies.

It suggested better planning and clarity on why locums were needed could reduce this by 15%.

The Auditor General for Scotland, Robert Black, said: "With better information, boards could improve their workforce planning and use locum doctors more cost-effectively."

He also said the NHS had to get better at managing the potential risks to patient safety of using locum doctors after highlighting that there were no formal systems for sharing information about individual locum doctors between boards.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged the rise in spending on locums but said any reduction in spending had to go “hand in hand” with improved standards for patients.

She said NHS chief executives had been reminded of the importance of following the existing code of practice on the employment of temporary medical staff in order to ensure patient safety and achieve best value for money.

The Royal College of Nursing in Scotland said the 'nurse banks' model should be applied to locum doctors.

 

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