Bury St Edmunds: West Suffolk Hospital spent �9million on locums

A HOSPITAL has spent more than �9million on locum doctors and nurses over the last three years, because it could not find “suitable staff.”

Bosses at West Suffolk Hospital, who are trying to save �9million this year, said the spend on nursing and medical agencies was necessary to ensure “high quality services” were maintained.

Yesterday David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said he had been informed by senior doctors that newly qualified medical professionals were choosing to emigrate rather than work in the county.

According to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act, in 2010 to 2011 the Bury-based hospital spent �3,528,877 on medical agencies, which supply doctors and consultants, with another �510,986 going on nurses.

Last year saw a similar amount – �3,442,474 – paid to medical agencies, while the amount spent on locum nurses dropped almost �400,000 to �117,221.

The most recent figures, those from between April and October 2012, show that �1,788,884 was spent on medical agency staff with nursing costs running at just �1,758.

Mr Ruffley said the figures acted as a “shocking confirmation” of the costs caused by a lack of doctors “for whatever reason.”

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He added: “This is certainly something I will take up with Stephen Graves, chief executive of West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, when I meet with him on Friday afternoon.

“It also confirms that a meeting I had with West Suffolk Commissioning Group who said, to my surprise, that there is a shortage of doctors in Suffolk.

“The medical schools are just not producing enough doctors who want to practise here.”

Mr Ruffley said from his understanding a large number of medical students get trained by the NHS and then move abroad to Australia and New Zealand.

He added: “It certainly seems to be a problem in Suffolk in recruiting GPs and doctors in hospitals and the EADT figures confirm that picture.”

Mr Ruffley said he would “personally” raise the issue with the health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Jan Bloomfield, executive director of workforce and communications at West Suffolk Hospital, said: “Like many other hospitals, we have been finding it difficult to fill vacancies in some areas due to nation-wide shortages of suitable staff.

“As a result, we use agency cover to ensure we can continue to offer a safe, effective and high quality service to our patients.”

She added that spending on agencies has reduced due to the appointment of “more substantive staff during recent months.”

A spokeswoman added that the trust was on target to make savings of �9million this year.

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