Wednesday, January 27News For London

Great Ormond Street can’t find doctors to work empty shifts

An email to junior doctors reveals that Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is struggling to fill vacant shifts in its medical rotas.

The email sent from a locum agency to a junior doctor. Credit: David Gregg
The email sent from a locum agency to a junior doctor. Credit: David Gregg

GOSH says since it started enforcing maximum rates for locum (temporary cover) shifts, it has seen an increase in vacant shifts.

In the email they state they are looking for junior doctors to work ‘ad-hoc’ in surgical and orthopaedic specialities.

Since 23 November 2015, new rules capping the rates of pay for locum shifts were introduced. On 1 April 2016, these rates are set to become even lower, with doctors being allowed to be paid no more than 1.55 times than their normal rates of pay.

These rates of pay were meant to save hospital trusts money by reducing the amount they spent on agency staff.

However, many doctors and other healthcare staff online have said they simply don’t want to take up extra shifts in their limited free time at such low rates.

Dr Thomas Dolphin, who has been involved in the recent contract negotiations, predicted that these reduced pay rates would exacerbate staffing problems.

In the past, locum rates were set by hospitals and operated as a free market. Many doctors relied on the financial benefits from locum shifts, especially those taking dental degrees in order to become facial surgeons. These doctors often work weekends in hospitals having attended university during the week.

Some doctors took to Twitter to point out the irony of the traditionally pro free market Conservative party enforcing wage controls.

An additional pressure on hospitals comes from cuts to training posts for doctors.  Core Surgical Training posts were cut by seven per cent nationally between 2015 and 2016. This has reduced the number of permanent contracts for surgical and orthopaedic doctors, the areas where GOSH is currently facing shortages.

This data from the Association of Surgeons in Training shows the changes made by Health Education England:

See the ASIT wesbite for the data shown here
Core surgical training places have decreased as the speciality becomes more competitive

Sub-edited by Kip Dudden and Charlotte Staley