Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey has criticised the Department of Health for ‘growing increasingly dependent’ on expensive locums at a time when almost 375,000 people across Northern Ireland are waiting on a hospital appointment. The South Belfast MLA was commenting after it was revealed in a response to an Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Question that the Department has spent almost £200m employing locum medical staff over the last 5 years.
Michael McGimpsey said:
“I fully understand that there will always be a need for some locum staff, especially in order to cover temporary gaps in our NHS workforce. Indeed when I was Health Minister I was committed to ensuring that essential services were always maintained and on occasion this did mean that Health Trusts were required to take on some agency staff.
“I was surprised however to see that over the last five years the Department of Health has spent almost £200m on locums: £149.6m on doctors and a further £48.5m on nurses. The cost has jumped from £32m in my last year in office to £48m last year.
“Such an increase, over 33%, would be alarming in normal circumstances but it is even more galling now given the appalling state of finances across the NHS and the latest publication of dreadful waiting times.
“The Minister needs to get a grip of the situation. If the money was being spent on tackling our waiting lists that would be one thing, but instead it is obvious that the Minister and the Trusts are becoming increasingly reliant on bank doctors and nurses to cover the major gaps that are developing across the entire workforce. This is neither safe nor is it value for public money.”