THE FACT that Yorkshire’s cash-strapped hospitals spent £171m on agency cover is a false economy.
This is not to belittle those medical staff who worked ad hoc shifts. Quite the opposite. Without their flexibility, and professionalism, the NHS simply would have been unable to function so effectively over the past 12 months.
Yet, at a time when hospital trusts across the region are heavily over-budget, it’s even more important that the Department of Health puts in place measures to remedy this staffing crisis.
Whether it is creating new places at medical school, changing the culture so experienced staff do not leave the profession prematurely or building better relations with junior doctors, this is one emergency which the Government needs to answer quickly.
This matters. Patients, particularly the elderly, like continuity of care – it reassures them, and their families, at a stressful time in their lives. It is also more difficult for hospital departments to create a ‘team’ – a word synonymous with Team GB’s successes at the Rio Olympics – if they’re having to call up agency staff routinely rather than in exceptional circumstances. Until hospitals and trusts have a sufficient pool of talent to draw upon, the NHS will, like it or not, have to recruit from overseas so patients can receive the care that they have a right to expect.