DIFFICULTIES in filling vital posts at St Mary’s Hospital has been blamed for a £500,000 rise in the cost of locums.
The Isle of Wight NHS Trust has battled to save millions of pounds in recent years — £7.27 million in this year alone —in the hope it will be granted foundation trust status next year, a move bosses believe will give them greater financial freedom and secure Island-based services.
Despite the need for cost-cutting, St Mary’s Hospital has been forced to increase its spending on locums, from £1,563,554 in 2010/11 to £2,024,978 in 2011/12, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Locums were drafted in to cover areas including urology, accident and emergency, care for the elderly, gynaecology, radiology and occupational health.
A spokesman said: "We do have a number of vacant posts which have proved extremely difficult to fill substantively and we have had to use locums to cover these posts.
"For example, we have four vacant anaesthetist positions, which we have advertised twice and failed to recruit to.
"There is a national shortage of certain levels of anaesthetic grade posts, so this is not just an Island issue."
He said they were working with an agency, used successfully by the NHS in Winchester, to fill the posts long-term, as well as working with specialist agencies to deal with staff shortages in urology, radiology, palliative medicine, histopathology, microbiology and haematology.
"Where possible, we try to engage locums directly and this enables us to pay NHS rates, rather than agency rates, but for some specialities the only way we can source candidates is through locum agencies," said the spokesman.
He added they had seen an increase in the turnover of doctors and the recruitment of replacements could take up to eight months.