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Cost of locum GPs in Tayside: How much has the health board paid for temporary doctors?

How much has NHS Tayside paid for locums?
How much has NHS Tayside paid for locums?

The cost of paying for locum doctors in five NHS Tayside surgeries has been revealed.

Data obtained under freedom of information legislation shows the wage bill paid out by NHS Tayside for temporary GPs in surgeries run by them has risen over the last three years.

It follows news Ryehill and Friockheim health centres could be facing potential closure because of a shortage of GPs.

MSP Maurice Golden – who obtained the figures under FOI – says he wants the Scottish Government to address the rising costs.

Friockheim Health Centre in the Westgate could be forced to close due to a shortage of GPs.

The results show how much was paid out across the five GP practices which are currently run by NHS Tayside.

That includes Whitfield, Maryfield and Lochee practices in Dundee, and Brechin and Abbey practices in Angus.

What is a locum?

A locum doctor is one who temporarily fills a rota gap within a hospital, clinic or practice.

This can often be on a relatively short-term basis, although in the healthcare sector, it’s not uncommon for locums to hold their post for more extended periods.

A locum doctor can be on a temporary contract with the NHS or can be an agency locum which means being paid an hourly rate through an agency.

‘Eye-watering’

Mr Golden says: “Some of the costs involved here are eye-watering and patients are losing out by not being able to build a relationship with a local GP.

“NHS Tayside is strapped for cash and the need to find hundreds of thousands each year for stop-gap GPs is only making things worse.”

But what do the figures show?

Maurice Golden MSP
Maurice Golden MSP. Photo by Richard Gardner/Shutterstock.

In the last three years:

  • The health board has spent a total of £1.35 million on locums across the five surgeries
  • That includes £580,000 last year alone for temporary doctors
  • That was an increase from 2019-2020 when they spent £430,000
  • In 2018-2019 they paid £344,000.

Hourly rate

Last year, £267,000 of the total spend by NHS Tayside was on agency locums.

It was revealed at least one locum GP was paid £171.80 per hour when they were hired in 2019-20.

Last year’s hourly peak for a locum GP was £90 per hour.

National shortage

A spokesperson for NHS Tayside says all boards across Scotland face a shortage of GPs and Tayside is no exception.

But they add they’re taking steps to recruit and retain GPs and look at different ways of delivering care out in communities.

“NHS Tayside has a responsibility to ensure safe primary care services are provided for all patients.

There is a national shortage of GPs.

“On occasion, that may require the use of locum doctors in practices that NHS Tayside runs directly.

“Locum doctors are an important part of our healthcare resource and are particularly useful in covering short term absence.

“They are however only part of what is required to have an effective and sustainable general practice.”

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